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Project Aims to Ease Congestion on Route 66

Construction also features re-connection of famed Route 66 along the interchange.

Thu October 15, 2015 - West Edition
Chuck Harvey

Near the bottom of San Bernardino County’s Cajon Pass, work is proceeding on the Devore Interchange Project at the intersection of California’s I-15 and I-215 freeways.

The project is designed to reduce congestion and accidents at the interchange, which is described as one of the worst grade-related bottleneck spots in the United States.

The heavily-traveled interchange is used by freight-carrying trucks, recreational vehicles and commuters from Southern California to Victorville, the Colorado River and Las Vegas.

The project includes construction of truck by-pass lanes and additional lanes for commuters. Construction also features re-connection of famed Route 66 along the interchange.

Tyeisha Prunty, public information officer of Caltrans, explained that construction spans about 2 mi. (3.2 km) of I-15 and slightly less than 2 mi. of I-215.

Commuters driving on Route 66 near the interchange will no longer face a gap in the historic roadway from Kenwood Avenue to Devore Road. Motorists should find less congestion along the old Route 66.

“Motorists will find continuous access where Route 66 turns into Cajon Boulevard,” Prunty said. “That will have a major impact on area commuters.”

Caltrans is the lead agency for the $324 million Devore Interchange Project, started in June 2013 and slated for completion in mid-2016. The Devore Interchange Project is a design-build endeavor.

Design-Build Speeds Delivery

Contractor for the work is Atkinson Construction of Irvine, Calif. John Harrington, vice president of Atkinson Construction’s Southern California office, confirms the project is on track and will likely complete ahead of schedule.

Harrington stated the design-build concept utilized by Caltrans to procure the project, encourages innovation and generally expedites project delivery without swelling the program budget.

The fast progress is good news for initial planners who saw a definite need for modern-day improvements at the much-used interchange. Recognizing that need, Caltrans and San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) worked together to develop the project.

Caltrans reported that 56 percent of project funding comes from state sources. Local funding covers 24 percent and federal funds cover the remaining 20 percent.

Interstate 15 is a major highway that runs in a north-south direction through San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. I-215 is a supplementary route of I-15 that runs to the east of I-15 and connects cities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

More than 1 million vehicles per week pass through the interchange with as many as 160,000 cars and trucks traveling though the junction on a daily basis.

As part of the project, the interchange will be reconfigured. The project includes work on I-15 from 2.3 mi. (3.7 km) south to 2 mi. north on the interchange. Construction on I-215 starts from 1 mi. (1.6 km) south to the I-15/I215 interchange.

One lane will be added each way on I-15 between Glen Helen Parkway and I-215. Also, 2 mi. of truck bypass lanes are being added to separate slow-moving trucks from traffic moving through the interchange.

Extensive Concrete Work

The project includes construction of 30 retaining walls, including one almost .5 mi. (.80 km) long. Workers will construct a total of seven new bridges and widen 10 others.

Bridge work is almost complete, with only two bridges left in need of widening. Foundations on the longest bridges range up to 11 ft. (3.35 m) in diameter and extend more than 100 ft. (30.48 m) into the ground.

Utilities had to be relocated, including an oil pipeline and power lines spanning 800 ft. (244 m) across the freeway.

Workers moved 1.2 million cu. yds. (917,466 cu m) of dirt. They will have laid down 300,000 cu. yds. (230,000 cu m) of concrete once the project is completed.

Asphalt paving will total 50,000 tons (45,359 t). In addition workers are installing 20,000 ft. (6,096 m) of drainage pipe.

Generally, no special equipment has been needed for the interchange project, but Atkinson did have to bring in large cranes for lifting heavy materials. The cranes had the capability of lifting 275 tons (249.5 t).

Curt Waggoner, project manager, said one of the challenges of the project was satisfying U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seismic requirements including retrofitting of the I-15 and I-215 for earthquake safety. The San Andreas Fault runs along the I-215 freeway and actually crosses under I-15 at one point moving up into the Cajon Pass.

Being well-equipped has helped Atkinson Construction stay on schedule. The company has a fleet of construction equipment to draw on from a central yard in Corona, Calif., and mechanics on site handle the day-to-day maintenance and repairs.

Most work is done from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. But some concrete work must be done at night when it is cooler.

Atkinson has several major subcontractors on the project, including All American Asphalt, Empire Steel, Pacific Restoration Group, URS, RMA, Shoring Engineers, Select Electric and?Holliday?Rock.

Separation of Cars and Trucks

Separating truck and passenger vehicle traffic is a primary objective of the project. Cars and trucks will no longer have to weave in and out of traffic to transition from one freeway to the other.

“Passenger cars will not have to compete with trucks,” Prunty said.

An additional northbound lane will be constructed on I-215 starting a .5 mi. (.80 km) south of Devore Road and ending at the merge with northbound I-15. The northbound I-215 Devore Road on-ramp closed on July 15 and was expected to remain closed for about 30 days.

Also workers will widen portions of the northbound I-215 to southbound I-15 connecter to two lanes to allow for passing. They will relocate the northbound I-15 to southbound I-215 connector just east of its current position.

One thing significant about the project is that no detours have been necessary through the pass. Also communication has been ongoing between the community and Caltrans.

“We meet monthly to address concerns,” Prunty said.

She said delays are typical, but have been limited to 25 minutes at peak commute times.

“We monitor traffic closely and lift closures if possible and needed to keep traffic flowing,” said Prunty.

Several roads in the area will have to be reconfigured including the I-15 and Kenwood Avenue interchange and reconstruction of Cajon Boulevard and Kenwood Avenue.

The interchange project will bring the interchange construction area up to a “state of good repair,” Caltrans reported in a release.

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