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ND/DOT’s I-29 Construction Continues Without a Hitch

Mon June 04, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson

The seventh year of the Interstate 29 highway project in Fargo, N.D., went without a hitch, ending one month early.

Fargo, the state’s largest city, is growing so rapidly it has been difficult for the North Dakota Department of Transportation (ND/DOT) to catch up with its road widening projects.

“We’re trying to get caught up with and a little bit ahead of the increasing traffic, but funding isn’t always available to do all that needs to be done, since other areas of the state also need attention,” said Kevin Gorder, metro engineer, Fargo District, ND/DOT.

Currently, Fargo’s population is approximately 91,000 — up from approximately 74,000 in 1990, according to U.S. Census information. As a result, traffic has substantially increased with traffic counts showing approximately 45,000 vehicles each day at the intersection of I-29 and Main Avenue.

The intersection was closed during construction because the existing bridge is centered on the existing roadway to the east, so there was no way to construct half of the bridge at a time; closing the bridge was the only way the new bridge could be constructed, ND/DOT information stated.

Temporary crossovers and ramp connections were constructed to allow smooth access at Main Avenue.

“I was expecting a lot of people to be upset and late for work but everything went well because the public was well-informed,” Gorder said.

To handle the increasing number of vehicles and to address the deterioration of the existing roadway, the intersection from Main Avenue and I-29 North to Cass County 20 was widened and reconstructed during the 2006 construction season at a cost of approximately $19 million.

Construction included creating a third northbound lane from Main Avenue to 19th Avenue North, and the reconstruction of the overpass at 19th Avenue North.

Work to expand the existing two-lane rural roadway into a seven-lane urban section began on March 15 by Northern Improvement, of Fargo, N.D., the prime contractor. The bridge was expanded from a small bridge to a large two-span bridge that is more than 100-ft. (30.5 m) wide over the bridge and now includes ramps and loop ramps.

Southbound I-29 was closed for a few nights to enable crews to safely demolish the existing 19th Avenue North bridge. Traffic was detoured around the bridge by exiting the off-ramp, crossing over 19th Avenue North, and rejoining southbound I-29 via the on-ramp. The I-29 lanes were reopened each morning by 6 a.m. in time for the morning commute.

“Closing I-29 was the only way to safely demolish the existing 19th Avenue North structure that extends over I-29 traffic. The North Dakota Department of Transportation is only allowing the closure of I-29 to occur overnight during the reconstruction of the 19th Avenue North overpass bridge,” said Joe Peyerl, ND/DOT Transportation Engineer.

Between 10 and 12 subcontractors helped complete the project.

“Northern Improvement does an incredible job of managing all those people,” Gorder said. “By mid- to late September the project was completed, which was about one month ahead of schedule.”

Helping the project get off to a quick start were a GPS and robotics equipment for surveying. Both technologies are relatively new for ND/DOT. Gorder explained that it is getting more difficult to find temporary help, so management made a commitment to fund some of these devices.

“We thought we would use them a few months of the year but I don’t think there have been even a couple of days where the units sat on the shelf.”

The GPS and robotics have reduced surveying time and man hours, making it easier to stay ahead of the contractor, Gorder said.

“Before we would lay out the lines and set the grade. Now we can lay out the lines pretty quickly and we can eliminate one person on the survey crew.”

The GPS allows ND/DOT to set points in a 10- to 20-mi. (16 to 32 km) radius. Robotics equipment helps relay the information to various people around the work site, even over long distances where they couldn’t hear each other before with radios.

Approximately 206,000 cu. yds. (157,000 cu m) of material was excavated during the project and hauled south on I-29 to 52nd Avenue to another DOT project, where fill was needed to construct a temporary bridge, the Shoo-fly railroad bridge.

“There were times when there were 12 to 15 trucks hauling,” Gorder said. “One day there were seven backhoes at work.”

The project went smoothly. “As soon as the sanitary sewer was completed, the storm sewer was placed and fill was hauled to cover it and then paving began. There were a lot of resources and a lot of people on the project,” he added.

Paving required approximately 148,000 cu. yds. (113,000 cu m) of concrete and approximately 50,000 cu. yds. (38,000 cu m) of base course, Gorder said. The previous roadway consisted of 2 in. (5 cm) of base and 8 in. (20 cm) of concrete. The new roadway has 8 in. of base and 12 in. (30.5 cm) of concrete.

“We’d like to think this is a 30-year design on the concrete,” Gorder said. “We do a maintenance check every five to eight years.”

The next phase of this ongoing project was recently bid and will include widening the 12th Avenue interchange including loop ramps on both sides, which allows the interchanges to operate a little more efficiently, Gorder said.

The 2007 project will mirror the 2006 project, just in the southbound direction this time. However, on this project, traffic will be routed head-to-head on the newly reconstructed northbound I-29 roadway. The interchange at 12th Avenue North also will be reconstructed in 2007.

As bridge reconstruction continues, crews will need to close the on- and off-ramps at the 19th Avenue North interchange. The ramp closures are not expected to happen until mid-May, and crews won’t close them until it’s absolutely necessary, information from ND/DOT stated.

Starting April 15, all traffic will be shifted to the southbound I-29 roadway and will be routed one lane in each direction. Traffic will be maintained on all existing ramps through the use of temporary ramp connections and crossovers that were constructed last year. CEG

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