Work Speeds Ahead on Replacing Century-Old Bridges With Tunnel

Oil Boom Creates Need to Improve Several Roads

Fri August 31, 2012 - Midwest Edition
CEG


The combined project, including the road and bridge reconstruction, totals $54.7 million and faces numerous challenges with the tight schedule and with the location in the center of the Bakken oil play.
The combined project, including the road and bridge reconstruction, totals $54.7 million and faces numerous challenges with the tight schedule and with the location in the center of the Bakken oil play.
The combined project, including the road and bridge reconstruction, totals $54.7 million and faces numerous challenges with the tight schedule and with the location in the center of the Bakken oil play. The $3.8 million project on Highway 22 began on June 4 and includes milling of the existing pavement and placing bituminous pavement from the Heart River Bridge, on the south end of the city, north to 14th Street West.

An unexpected oil boom that has tripled production in five years in western North Dakota has caused an influx of truck traffic, creating excessive stress on roads and unsafe traffic conditions.

Drilling is taking place in the Bakken Formation, a 360-million-year-old shale bed that is 2 mi. underground, which geologists believe holds a 15,000 square-mile region of oil in North Dakota alone. A study by the North Dakota State University’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, states that more than 20,000 new oil wells could be drilled in western North Dakota in the next 20 years. For each well just over 2,000 truck trips are needed, including 600 to haul water and 80 to haul sand and gravel.

With 5,349 oil-producing wells in 2010, compared with 3,367 three years earlier, North Dakota is the nation’s fourth largest oil producer, behind Texas, California and Alaska.

As a result, the study adds, at least $907 million would be needed in the next 20 years to rebuild or maintain roads for oil-industry traffic in the 17 oil counties. With 5 percent inflation that number would soar to almost $1.3 billion.

Construction projects in North Dakota are at an all time high at $590 million in 2011, with a close second in 2012 of $520 million throughout the state. The $1.67 billion budget for road construction for the 2011-2013 biennium is the largest in ND/DOT history. The 2009-2011 transportation budget of $1.35 billion saw a 50 percent increase from the previous biennium.

In an effort to handle the increasing traffic and rapidly deteriorating roads, ND/DOT accelerated projects in western North Dakota and increased funding spent for repair work and construction in oil impact areas. Several projects are being tackled each year. Work in 2011 included: completion of U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City and Williston by adding additional passing and turning lanes; widening projects on State Highway 8, State Highway 22 south of Dickinson, and State Highway 23; and repairs on damaged pavement on state highways in the Williston and Watford City areas.

Numerous other roadways within the Bakken Formation still need attention either by widening or resurfacing. Currently, four projects are in the works in the Dickinson area in western North Dakota, which is just one of many communities undergoing roadwork because of the effect of the influx of traffic and additional people due to the oil boom.

The four projects near Dickinson are all scheduled for completion by November of this year.

The first project by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and prime contractor Northern Improvements Company of Dickinson began on May 29 and begins at the north edge of Dickinson and continues five miles north to the Stark/Dunn County line. At a cost of $18 million, this existing two lane highway is being widened to accommodate five lanes of traffic. The Green River Bridge also is being replaced as part of this project, to handle the five lanes. Lights and traffic signals will be added at three intersections of 32nd Street Southwest, 33rd Street Southwest and 34th Street Southwest.

Meyer Contracting of Dickinson is handling the dirt work, hauling about 80,000 cu. yds. (61,164 cu m) of borrow. The project also required about 133,000 tons (120,656 t) of aggregate base, 73,000 tons (66,224 t) of bituminous pavement, 778 cu. yds. (595 cu m) of concrete for the bridge and approach slabs.

A substantial increase in traffic on Highway 22 from about 3,600 vehicles each day in 2010 to about 5,000 today, made the lane increase necessary, according to information from the ND/DOT. Truck traffic and additional businesses east and west of Highway 22 caused the need for the additional lanes, said Kyle Niess, project information coordinator of ND/DOT. “Five lanes will help with traffic flow and truck traffic turning off and onto traffic. There shouldn’t be any traffic issues even for the long term when traffic is expected to increase.”

During construction two-way traffic is being maintained through the construction site, however, beginning on June 20 a paved traffic bypass was incorporated north of Dickinson while the Green River Bridge is constructed. The bypass is expected to be in place for three or four months while the bridge is being built.

Industrial Builders Inc. of West Fargo, N.D., is handling reconstruction of the Green River Bridge. Starting July 9, crews began working at night, for a stretch of about three weeks. Night work involved trucks driving in the ditch at times and the use of flood lights to light the work areas. The bridge required 1,168 ft. (356 m) beams that consist of 45 in. (114.3 cm) prestressed concrete. Also, about 111,000 lbs. (50,349 kg) of reinforcing steel and 620 cu. yds. (474 cu m) of concrete were used on the bridge. When complete, the bridge will be 150 ft. (45.7 m) long and 78.5 ft. (34 m) wide.

A second project, also being handled by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and prime contractor Northern Improvements Company is underway within the city of Dickinson.

The $3.8 million project on Highway 22 began on June 4 and includes milling of the existing pavement and placing bituminous pavement from the Heart River Bridge, on the south end of the city, north to 14th Street West.

The project also includes replacement of concrete sidewalk ramps at intersections, and traffic signal upgrades at 15th Street, 21st Street and Wal-Mart intersections. A new concrete pavement intersection and new traffic signals at the North Dakota Highway 22 and Museum Drive/12th Street intersection also will be included. Bridge deck repairs to the bridge over Interstate 94, and signing upgrades on North Dakota Highway 22 and Interstate 94 also will take place.

Completion should result in a smoother driving surface and improved traffic flow at the 12th Street intersection because of the new traffic signal that will provide protected left turns. Construction on this intersection is expected to take about 6 weeks.

Two-lane traffic will be maintained on pavement throughout the entire project, with 12-ft. (3.7 m) width restrictions in some areas. By mid-July left turns through Dickinson were again allowed. Not allowing the left turn caused a lot of issues as motorists chose to turn left anyway, creating backed up traffic, Niess said. Traffic was also unwilling to slow down through the city, causing additional concerns.

A third project is underway about 32 mi. (51.5 km) north of Dickinson, at the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 200 at Killdeer. The first roundabout on a North Dakota state highway is being constructed by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and J.M. Marsehuetz Construction of Eureka, Mo. The $3.4 million roundabout is expected to reduce traffic congestion and eliminate high speed crashes, improve traffic flow, increase traffic capacity and accommodate vehicles of all sizes, all with improved safety. It is also expected to handle future traffic increases.

The roundabout is being constructed because there is no traffic control on Highway 200 for left hand turns.

“Traffic might be backed up for a mile any time of the day. So this will definitely speed up traffic,” Niess said. Highways 22 and 200 will remain two lane highways.

On a traditional 4-way stop intersection, there are 32 points of conflict. Roundabouts, however, contain only 8 points of conflict, showing 40 percent fewer collisions, 80 percent fewer injuries and 90 percent fewer serious injuries and fatalities, according to a national study of U.S. roundabouts.

Work on the roundabout began in late July 2012 with crews removing the topsoil and installing construction signs at the project site. Since this is not a normal “T” intersection during construction, one of the biggest challenges is creating smooth traffic flow, Niess said. Crews were able to construct a make-shift roundabout around the construction area on which to divert traffic.

Also on Highway 22, but north of Killdeer about 13 mi. (21 km) is a fourth ND/DOT project that continues 7.5 mi. (12.1 km) north to Lost Bridge. Work began on June 4 by Oftedal Construction of Miles City, Mont., and the reconstruction of the highway is still scheduled for completion in November. The roadway is to be widened to add an 8-ft. (2.4 m) paved shoulder, realignment of some of the curves, a passing/climbing lane south of Lost Bridge, a right turn lane at the Little Missouri State Park approach, and truck chain-up and Highway Patrol inspection areas, the ND/DOT states.

During the project, two-way traffic will be maintained on a combination of gravel and pavement, and a gravel surfaced bypass will be accessible.

Niess adds there are a lot of inclines on this stretch of highway causing trucks to slow down automatically, creating a back up of traffic. Adding passing lanes is expected to alleviate this traffic congestion and improve safety.

The Lost Bridge also is being reconstructed with an even earlier deadline of October 2012. During construction, traffic on Lost Bridge has been reduced to one 12-ft. lane of traffic, controlled by a traffic signal, and a 17-ft. (5.2 m) height restriction. As of mid-July crews were working double shifts to ensure completion by October.

The combined project, including the road and bridge reconstruction, totals $54.7 million and faces numerous challenges with the tight schedule and with the location in the center of the Bakken oil play. Combined, the projects require 2.9 million cu. yds. (2.2 million cu m) of excavation and 183,686 cu. yds. (140,438 cu m) of topsoil placement.