New I-15 Ogden Weber Expansion Nearly Complete

Thu July 24, 2008 - West Edition
Rebecca Ragain

The northern Utah section of Interstate 15 (I-15) has seen a lion’s share of improvements over the past decade.

In 1997, joint venture Wasatch Constructors began a $1.3 billion design-build project to reconstruct I-15 through Salt Lake City in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The project required demolition, design, and reconstruction of more than 16 mi. (25.7 km) of freeway and 142 bridges.

Now, a quarter-billion-dollar project to expand I-15 through the city of Ogden is nearing completion.

Weber County Constructors expects to finish the I-15 New Ogden Weber Expansion (NOW) project in August, concluding its third summer of construction. The contractor, a joint venture between Granite Construction and Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Company of Draper, Utah, started work on I-15 NOW in February 2006.

The design-build contract addresses a 9.5-mi. (15 km) corridor through Ogden starting at 31st Street to the south and ending at 2700 North.

The original configuration of the segment was problematic in that it tightened from three lanes to two from the 31st Street interchange northward. Once the improvements are complete, travelers will enjoy increased capacity: four travel lanes in each direction from 31st Street to 12th Street and three lanes north of 12th Street to 2700 North.

The project also includes reconstruction of six interchanges — at 31st Street, 24th Street, 21st Street, 12th Street, 450 North and 2700 North — and the installation of more than 400,000 sq. ft. (37,160 sq m) of precast noise wall.

As of late June, only the final touches remained unfinished on the I-15 NOW project, said project manager Ken Kubacki. Kubacki’s punch list includes standard wrapping-up details such as final paving, electrical work, and painting.

Thinking back over the course of the I-15 NOW job, Kubacki doesn’t recall too many hurdles. There were the normal challenges that come along with design-build projects, plus the inherent complications of improving a roadway that moves 160,000 cars per day, including a “tremendous amount” of truck traffic.

“Working with the traveling public is always a challenge,” said Kubacki.

Starting construction in February made it difficult to recruit the number of workers needed for the $138 million job. On the other hand, the early start date did allow Weber County Constructors to get in on the ground floor when it came to hiring for the summer.

“We were able to come out of the winter and be on the front end of getting people out of the hall, out of the unions, and that was a big advantage,” Kubacki recalled.

At the project’s peak last summer, the number of employees, designers, and subcontractors on the job totaled nearly 600.

Other issues were geotechnical in nature. The 31st Street bridge over I-15, for instance, sat on a landfill, so Weber County Constructors brought in a deep dynamic compaction subcontractor. Soil liquefaction at a couple of other bridges — the project includes a total of 26 bridges — was addressed by another specialty contractor through the use of stone columns and wick drains.

Construction of two bridges that cross the Weber River was complicated by the river’s fluctuating water levels as the snow melted in the spring; the protection of nearby wetlands was “a major issue” that required ongoing dialogue with environmental specialists, said Kubacki.

Finally, because five of the bridges crossed railroads owned by different organizations, coordination between construction crews and railroad operators was necessary to schedule the demolition and construction of the bridges.

Weber County Constructors’ progress was affected by the long, cold winter that slowed work in much of the West. But although some paving operations had to be extended until warmer weather arrived, previous seasons’ construction had gone well enough that there was room in the schedule to allow for that sort of delay.

All told, the project involved nearly 700,000 cu. yd. (535,000 cu m) of embankment, 975,000 tons (884,500 t) of aggregate base rock and 420,000 tons (381,000 t) of asphalt paving.

Of the machines used during the project, Equipment Manager Jeremy Barney estimated that 95 percent were Caterpillars, plus a few Komatsu and Kobelco. Most of the machines were already part of the venture partners’ fleets.

“With a lot of coordination and cooperation between Granite and Wadsworth, it worked out really well,” said Barney. CEG

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