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N.M.’s I-10 Interchanges Near Completion

The project has been challenging due to the high volumes of traffic between Las Cruces and Texas.

Fri January 23, 2015 - West Edition
Irwin Rapoport

The Mesquite and Vado interchanges along New Mexico’s Interstate 10 (I-10) are undergoing a one-year upgrade via a $9.2 million contract awarded El Terrero Construction LLC by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). The much needed work began in February 2014 and should be completed by the end of April 2015.

“This project has been challenging due to the high volumes of traffic between Las Cruces and Texas,” said Benito Trevino, the project manager of the NMDOT project, “as it serves as an access point for residents and business for Mesquite, Vado, Anthony and Chaparral. The crews have installed additional signage in order to alert motorists of the work zone since we understand safety is a priority for everyone. Therefore, I am confident that the bridge and roadway enhancements conducted for provide a safe roadway for many years to come as growth continues to stream down this corridor.”

The interchange of I-10/Mesquite (N.M. 228) is located in Mesquite — approximately 13 mi. (21 km) north of the N.M./Texas stateline.

“N.M. 228 is functionally classified as an arterial and the existing roadway over I-10 does not meet the minimum arterial roadway standards,” said Jerry Paz, a project engineer of Molzen Corbin. “The old bridge was constructed in 1961, and was in need of replacement. The new N.M. 228 bridge over I-10 will be widened from 28 to 40 feet. In addition, the old ramps that exit and enter I-10 were too short and needed to be extended approximately 1,000 feet to meet the current AASHTO design standards.

“The biggest design challenge was to make sure that this bridge could be expanded in the future when the extension of Weisner Road would potentially connect at this location,” Paz continued. “The abutments and center pier were designed to allow for this future event, should it occur.”

Initial progress on this section of the project was delayed, relates to the pile driving operation, but this has been dealt with.

“There were equipment concerns related to the pile hammer that slowed the progress of the western abutment and center pier,” Paz said. “There was some delay in the opening of the ramps, as there was a recall on the guard rail crash barriers. Once those issues were resolved, the project has been able to move forward. The project was designed such that both Vado and Mesquite interchanges could not be worked on at the same time so that local traffic always have at least one of the two interchanges open. Once Mesquite is complete, Vado will be allowed to proceed.”

The I-10/Vado Interchange is located at MP 155 (Exit 155) along I-10 located in Vado, which is approximately 9 mi. (14.5 km) north of the N.M./Texas state line. This interchange provides access to N.M. state Road 227 (N.M. 227), which is functionally classified as an arterial.

“The interchange generally meets AASHTO design criteria,” said Paz, “but there is insufficient space between the ramps and the frontage roads. One unique traffic control condition that exists at this interchange is at the intersection of the west frontage road and N.M. 227. This intersection includes a three-way stop condition, with the only free movement being the westbound N.M. 227 traffic, which was installed by the NMDOT to help alleviate the condition where the spacing between the ramps and the frontage road is too short, and creates turning movement confusion.”

To improve the function of the interchange round-abouts have been added at the terminal points of the exit and entrance ramps that also connect with the frontage roads, according to Paz. This improved interchange will minimize the conflicts now experienced between the ramps and frontage roads, as well as minimize the potential for drivers from entering the interstate going the wrong way.

El Terrero Construction, founded in 2009, operates in New Mexico, specializing in bridge and concrete construction. Sayeed Afsar, El Terrero’s project manager, stressed that the soil conditions experienced at the Mesquite site have been the greatest challenge.

“It was the soil conditions that delayed the pile driving operations and added about 40 days to the contract time,” he said, “but we used a much bigger hammer than required on the east abutment which speeded up the process. The hammer that was specified was not adequate for the soil conditions that were encountered, resulting in much harder pile driving than anticipated.”

Another factor continues to be the weather.

“For instance,” said Afsar, “the paving operation was slowed down due to it. At this time of the year that is expected. In late December we started paving at 10 a.m. and had to wrap it up at 4 p.m. The window is narrower for paving, but we are able to account for that and maximize the time that we have to do the work as there are specification requirements that we have to follow.

“However,” he continued, “we still expect to complete the project on time. Once we move to Vado on January 5, we’ll work every day for 2 and a half months to meet the schedule and delivery time.”

At the Mesquite Interchange, El Terrero is rebuilding four ramps and replacing an existing bridge with a new one consisting of two 12-ft. (3.7 m) lanes, 8-ft. (2.4 m) wide shoulders and 6-ft. (1.8 m) wide sidewalk on each side of the bridge, along with all safety features.

The demolition of the bridge, which took five days and removal of the old roadway and other infrastructure accounted for 1,100 tons (997 t) of concrete and 70 tons (63.5 t) of rebar. The new construction at Mesquite will see the use of 5,500 cu. yd. (4,205 cu m) of concrete and 200 tons (181 t) of rebar.

“The new bridge is a much aesthetically and functionally enhanced structure,” said Afsar. “The old bridge had timber pilings and now we are using steel pilings filled with concrete — pipe pilings. Over time the materials and construction equipment and techniques have all improved. There was also an awareness that the bridge needs to be turned over as soon as possible as the traffic count has gone up many-fold over the years and so the recognition that you need to build it fast to minimize the inconvenience to the traveling public.”

He added that with trucks becoming heavier and with the carrying of heavier and larger loads, the bridge’s capability to bear increased traffic capacity is essential for its new lifespan.

For the Vado Interchange, El Terrero will construct round-abouts on each side of the bridge to improve traffic flow.

“The east bound on-and-off ramps at the Mesquite Interchange are open to traffic,” said Afsar. “We plan to open the west bound on-and-off ramps and I-10 to two lanes of traffic on December 31. The Vado ramps and the bridge [N.M. 227] will be closed to traffic at the time for the construction of roundabouts.”

Several subcontractors are involved in the work (300 calendar days), including MANS Construction for all the earthwork, base course, and hot mix asphalt; San Bar Construction for the permanent signing and striping; RT electric for the lighting, and Valley Fence for the guardrail and fencing. On an average day there are 20 to 25 construction workers and staff on site — El Terrero personnel and subcontractors. A daily shift of the nine hours is the norm for the project.

Equipment-wise, El Terrero is using a P & H 100 ton (90.7 t) crawler crane, a Grove RT 28 ton (25 t) crane, a water truck, a John Deere 270LC excavator and a John Deere 310SG loader backhoe, a Volvo motorgrader, a Genie S60 boom lift, and a Freighliner FL80 dump truck.

The company does not have an onsite mechanic, but mechanics are brought in for routine maintenance and immediate repairs from its yard in Rio Rancho, N.M., about 230 mi. (370 km) away from the work site.

“The number of pieces of equipment does not require a mechanic to be on site full-time,” said Afsar. “Our operators inspect the equipment and vehicles daily and report any issues to the superintendent. Routine maintenance is critical so that unexpected breakdowns are minimized. We operate across the state and mechanics are sent or hired locally as needed.”

In addition to the El Terrero equipment and vehicles, there is a steady stream of vehicles and machinery from the subcontractors, especially via MANS, Valley Fence, RT Electric, and San Bar.

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