Slashed I-25 Costs Allow for Immediate Relief

An original $350 million project cost was reduced to $93 million.

📅   Sun May 15, 2016 - West Edition
Dorinda Anderson - CEG CORRESPONDENT


An original $350 million project cost was reduced to $93 million when the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided to focus on only immediate traffic needs in Albuquerque by increasing capacity to serve the next 20 years, according to Michael Smelk
An original $350 million project cost was reduced to $93 million when the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided to focus on only immediate traffic needs in Albuquerque by increasing capacity to serve the next 20 years, according to Michael Smelk
An original $350 million project cost was reduced to $93 million when the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided to focus on only immediate traffic needs in Albuquerque by increasing capacity to serve the next 20 years, according to Michael Smelk The project began in the fall of 2013 and was completed ahead of schedule in December 2014. Some bridge coatings and final paving will be completed in the spring of 2015. On southbound I-25, a fourth driving lane was extended from Alameda Street to San Antonio Street and the southbound exit ramp at Paseo del Norte was converted to a two-lane ramp. The $93 million funding was received from four entities, including $50 million from the city of Albuquerque, $29.75 million from the State of New Mexico/New Mexico Department of Transportation, $5 million from Bernalillo County, and $8.25 million in feder

An original $350 million project cost was reduced to $93 million when the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided to focus on only immediate traffic needs in Albuquerque by increasing capacity to serve the next 20 years, according to Michael Smelker, project engineer of the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

The project began in the fall of 2013 and was completed ahead of schedule in December 2014. Some bridge coatings and final paving will be completed in the spring of 2015. The goal is to improve traffic flow and safety at the interchange of Paseo del Norte and Interstate 25 and at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Paseo del Norte Boulevard in Albuquerque, N.M. Each day about 154,000 vehicles travel this intersection and close to 500 accidents occur each year.

The $93 million funding was received from four entities, including $50 million from the city of Albuquerque, $29.75 million from the State of New Mexico/New Mexico Department of Transportation, $5 million from Bernalillo County, and $8.25 million in federal funding.

Those immediate traffic needs were identified as:

• Traffic congestion for those traveling from the west side to the east side of Albuquerque, the Journal Center and downtown in the morning rush hour, by constructing a free-flow ramp.

• Traffic congestion for those traveling from downtown, the Journal Center and the east side to the west side in the early evening by adding a flyover ramp.

• Traffic congestion at the intersection of Jefferson Street/Paseo del Norte Boulevard by adding an overpass to improve east/west access and local traffic flow. Paseo del Norte is grade-separated above Jefferson Street to promote better traffic flow for the east-to-west traffic on Paseo del Norte and to ease congestion for local traffic traveling north or south on Jefferson Street. Off-ramps from eastbound and westbound Paseo del Norte will provide access to northbound and southbound Jefferson Street.

• The lack of connection for bicycle and pedestrian paths across I-25. Improvements will provide a critical bike system link across I-25 and to connect existing paths in the area.

• Congested freeway access from east of the Paseo del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange by improving freeway access for traffic originating from the area east of the Paseo del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange.

• Alleviating traffic congestion on I-25 between Alameda Boulevard and Jefferson Street to improve traffic flow, which will then enhance safety.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation also faced challenges coordinating more than 50 crews using 250 sets of design plans for operations and office management for the day and night operations, that consisted of over 500,000 man hours, to ensure the project is completed on time. Crews worked six or seven days a week with two shifts each day. Daily and weekly coordination meetings were necessary to keep the operation running smoothly. The meetings also helped the management team “to look ahead and find ways to improve the critical path items to help finish them ahead of schedule,” Smelker said. Contractors also faced challenges when working within areas of the job site that were congested areas or corridors.

The entire project was completed in four phases to maintain open lanes of traffic throughout the course of the project. Traffic switches were coordinated within the baseline schedule to help capture the entire scope of work related to each work zone, allowing construction to stay on schedule and still be efficient, Smelker said.

The north/south I-25 corridor was widened by adding one 3.25 mi. (5.2 km) northbound lane and one 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) southbound through lane to create four driving lanes in each direction within the project limits, Smelker said. The interstate widening also included auxiliary lanes between each interchange on ramp and off ramp. A fourth driving lane on northbound Interstate 25 that currently ends at Jefferson Street was extended to Alameda Street. The northbound I-25 exit ramp to Alameda Street was converted to a two-lane ramp and the northbound I-25 exit ramp to Paseo del Norte is now a two-lane ramp. Ramp improvements also were made between Jefferson Street and San Mateo/Osuna in the northbound direction, information from the New Mexico Department of Transportation explains.

On southbound I-25, a fourth driving lane was extended from Alameda Street to San Antonio Street and the southbound exit ramp at Paseo del Norte was converted to a two-lane ramp. The on-ramp from eastbound Paseo del Norte to southbound I-25 will be a two-lane ramp, and the south bound I-25 exit ramp to San Antonio Street will be converted to a two-lane ramp. The on-ramp at northbound I-25 and San Antonio was relocated to the south and braided for safety. The previous on-ramp location was close to Paseo del Norte and created unsafe traffic weaving, information from the New Mexico Department of Transportation states.

Also, the San Antonio Bridge was widened and there are additional turn lanes at the intersections of the I-25 frontage roads and San Antonio Street, according to information from the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

The project was about 80 percent complete at the end of October 2014 with the completion of three lanes in each direction on I-25 between Alameda Street and Jefferson Street, and two lanes in each direction on Paseo del Norte between I-25 and the railroad crossing just past Edith Boulevard. The I-25 off-ramp was opened in early October with two dedicated right-turn lanes, two through lanes and two left-turn lanes, and a southbound I-25 of-ramp at Paseo del Norte with a through lane, a right-turn lane and a combination through- or left-turn lane.

Construction then continued on one open lane on the westbound Paseo del Norte to the southbound I-25 loop ramp also is being completed, along with two open lanes for the new braided ramp just north of San Mateo for a northbound I-25 access.

On the east/west Paseo del Norte, a 4 mi. (6.4 km) segment is being reconstructed to three lanes in each direction west of Interstate 25 and widened to four lanes going westbound east of I-25. The at-grade crossing on Paseo del Norte west of Jefferson Street will be improved to make crossing it easier.

Also, there will be a dedicated triple-right turn at the intersection of Paseo del Norte eastbound from the northbound I-25 frontage road to handle increasing traffic heading east, information from the New Mexico Department of Transportation states. Paseo del Norte will be grade-separated at Jefferson Street, creating free-flow traffic, meaning no signals, all the way to I-25. There will be a triple-right signalized turn lane from the frontage road south of Paseo del Norte to access Jefferson Street. And, the local access road north of Paseo del Norte will be improved to promote safety two-way traffic flow.

El Pueblo Road at Jefferson Street will be reconstructed slightly to the south and a triple-right signalized turn lane will be added as well as bike and pedestrian improvements, information from the New Mexico Department of Transportation states.

To make grading on this extensive project easier, prime contractor Kiewit of Omaha, Neb., with numerous offices throughout the United States and Canada, including Albuquerque, incorporated some new grading techniques by equipping all grading equipment with grade control, enabling the operator to finish slopes and subgrade to design elevations without the need for survey stakes, Smelker added.

Crews incorporated 300,000 cu. yd. (229,366 cu m) of borrow material and completed 279,000 sq. ft. (25,920 sq m) of subgrade preparation, using loaders, end-dump trucks and belly dump trucks, excavators and dozers and blades. About 30,000 sq. yd. (25,084 sq m) of concrete paving also was needed and 105,000 tons (95,254 t) of hot-mix asphalt, using two asphalt pavers and eight rollers, Smelker added.

Construction also included construction on eight bridges. Two bridges were widened, five bridges are new construction and one bridge was rehabbed. New technology was incorporated in the bridge work by assembling 78-in. (198 cm) deep curved steel plate girders on the ground, Smelker said. “This resulted in minimal closures of Interstate 25 and Paseo del Norte. The ground assembly was a success due to a large effort in regards to design and detailed planning.”

Bridge work required the use of two 250-ton (226.8 t) cranes and two 100-ton (90.7) cranes and the incorporation of 8,000 cu. yd. (6,116 cu m) of super sub-structure concrete. Vertical clearance was often an issue and so crews used “a few innovative pier-cap designs to maintain the specified vertical clearance, including post-tensioned inverted tee caps and a post-tensioned integral pier cap,” Smelker said. Both designs aid in horizontal and vertical clearance.

An inverted-tee pier cap is a pier cap with a cross-section shaped like an upside down capital letter T. Inverted-tee pier caps offer the advantage of very low depth below the bottom surface of superstructure girders, which improve vertical clearances below the pier cap. Most inverted-tee pier caps are made of concrete, sometimes post-tensioned if required to achieve wider column spacings or overhangs, according to the Steel Bridge Design Handbook, Substructure Design by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Integral post-tensioned Pier cap involves construction of columns to the bottom of lower flange or to bottom of the pier cap. Then girders are erected on temporary supports placed near the column locations. The pier cap reinforcement is then placed about the same as conventional construction. The concrete cap is poured up to the bottom deck slab. After removal of the cap formwork, post-tensioning system is placed and stressed.

Advantages of a post-tensioning system of the pier cap compared to reinforced concrete include considerable saving in concrete and steel, because of a more slender design, good crack behavior that creates permanent protection of the steel against corrosion, and better fatigue characteristics of high strength steel as opposed to fatigue prone details commonly employed in steel pier caps, according to “Use of Integral Piers to Enhance Aesthetic Appeal of Grade Separation Structures,” from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering University of Maryland College Park, M.D.