Smooth Driving Prevails After PA I-79 Repaving Job

Wed March 19, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed



A completed project on a stretch of I-79 in northwestern Pennsylvania not only came in under budget, but it also resulted in a far smoother ride than before — two results guaranteed to grab the attention of drivers using the Interstate highway.

Running between the I-79/I-90 interchange to I-79’s interchange with State Route 20 (also known as 26th Street) in Erie, PA, the reconstructed stretch of 5.5 mi. (8.8 km) of the Interstate opened to traffic in October 2001, the northbound lanes having been reconstructed in 2000 with the southbound lanes completed in 2001.

The overall price tag for the two-year contract was approximately $20 million, funded with both federal (80 percent) and state (20 percent) money. The project came in approximately $200,000 under budget, said Kent Turk, PennDOT’s project manager for the job.

Russell Standard Corporation, of Bridgeville, PA, was prime contractor. Its Union City branch handled the job, which involved 4.5 mi. (7.2 km) of full-depth Superpave bituminous paving on broken concrete, extensive structure work, drainage improvements, ROW fencing, guiderail, lighting, pavement markings and signage improvements. The company supplied the project from its Gencor Industries batch plant, located on Pittsburgh Avenue in Erie, PA.

Because of its design, the project was divided into sections thus creating many different work areas that progressed independently. Some utility work also was being performed simultaneously. As a result, coordination among Russell’s many subcontractors was critical to the schedule of the project, said the company.

The roadway work initially required extensive earthwork to lower grade at the four existing overhead structures so that clearance restrictions could be maintained and still allow the appropriate pavement section of 16 in. (40.6 cm) for new construction areas. Earthwork began with the rubblizing of the existing 10-in. (25.4 cm) reinforced-concrete pavement to 8-in. (20.3 cm) minus in gradation. Rubblizing was specified by PennDOT for concrete that was to be removed and reused in new roadbed sections as base material, Russell Standard said.

Antigo Construction, of Antigo, WI, made quick work of the required 39, 850 sq. yds. (33,319 sq m) of rubblizing

“We carried out the work during the summers of 2000 and 2001 and the final quantities involved were 39,844-sq.-yds. rubblized and 87,237-sq.-yds. breaking and seating,” Matt Shinners, secretary and vice president of Antigo, noted. “Rubblizing was performed with a multihead breaker, a model MHB Badger Breaker, with 12 1,200-lb. hammers mounted in two rows and four 1,500-lb. hammers mounted on two wings, breaking the concrete down to 8-in. minus size pieces,” he said.

“Breaking and seating was carried out with a guillotine-style drop hammer, a model T8600 Badger Breaker, equipped with one 8 ft. wide, 12,000-lb. hammer,” Shinners continued, “This broke the concrete into 24-in. minus size pieces. Russell Standard then seated the broken concrete with a proof roller prior to overlaying it with asphalt.”

Aided by two Caterpillar 330BL excavators, Russell Standard removed the existing pavement section and the appropriate amount of earth to the correct elevation. Two Caterpillar D-6s and a Caterpillar 12F grader handled the shaping of the subgrade. The task was complicated by contractual access restrictions that required the building of haul roads for construction traffic on the project, including the asphalt paving operations. Extra effort also was afforded to separate broken concrete from the excavated material for re-use purposes.

In one location, subgrade was of a condition that required an undercut of an additional 3 ft. (.9 m) to stabilize it and this area also required some drainage modifications dictated by the new subgrade elevation.

Drainage subcontractor J. C. Lee, based in Petrolia, PA, had to perform within tight time constraints, carrying out the drainage work for the project using a Caterpillar 320 excavator (primarily for storm drains) and a Caterpillar 426 rubber-tired hoe for backfilling.

Russell Standard Corporation seated the fractured concrete with a 50-ton (45 t) proof roller and overlaid it with numerous lifts of Superpave mixes. The company’s paving train consisted of either a Roadtec SB2500 shuttle buggy or a Blaw-Knox MC330 MTV and a Blaw-Knox 5510 track paver, as well as numerous Dynapac CC421 and CC422 vibratory rollers.

Swank Associated Companies, of New Kensington, PA, handled the replacement of two sets of structures. The first set crossed Walnut Creek and was replaced by a pair of single span bridges with spread concrete I-beams manufactured by Top Roc Newcrete, headquartered in Erie, PA, with integral abutments anchored to pilings by the Douglass Pile Company, of Bridgeville, PA.

The second set spanned 32nd Street in Erie and this offered its own concerns, being in a residential neighborhood over a high- volume street. The new structures are single span adjacent concrete box beams, again from Top Roc Newcrete, with stub abutments.

Because of the traffic volume on 32nd Street, PennDOT required beam setting to take place at night to minimize disturbance to the surroundings. Swank Associated also repaired all of the deteriorated surfaces on the project’s overhead structures, and the bridgework was rounded out with the overlay of a badly deteriorated deck on the 26th Street bridge over I-79.

Deterioration of the curved girder bridge was due to high reinforcing steel content. Russell Standard ground the deck, installed a waterproofing membrane and placed a bituminous overlay. This involved closing the exit ramp and a temporary detour while the work was performed. The detour was significant because 26th Street is a major east/west route through downtown Erie, so closing the exit had a major impact.

“The final two lifts of Superpave mixes for I-79 consisted of PG76-22 asphalt binder material and required special attention to detail in all aspects, from the plant, to the trucks, to the paver, to the rollers and everywhere in between,” a spokesman for Russell Standard recalled.

“It’s a very temperature sensitive material which requires additional attention in order for the entire process to unfold smoothly, including the ride.”

The resulting stretch of highway boasted a noteworthy drop in its International Roughness Index (IRI) rating, which fell from greater than 160 to 37.2. The IRI is measured by how many inches a laser carried by a specialized vehicle “jumps” as it travels each mile and thus lower IRI numbers reflect smoother rides. The vast improvement brought about by this particular paving project is all the more striking when, as PennDOT’s Turk pointed out, “Pavements below 60 are considered excellent for the Interstate system.”

Subcontractors who also worked on the I-79 job included Penn Line Service Inc., of Scottsdale, PA, guide rails; Protection Services Inc., based in Harrisburg, PA, traffic control; Bruce Merrilees Electric Company, headquartered in New Castle, PA, electrical/signage; Hazlett Tree Service of Townville, PA, tree clearing; Thomas Grinding Inc., located in Moore Haven, FL, milled shoulder rumble strips; Williams and Willman, of Kittanning, PA, pavement marking; R. L. Johnson Construction Corporation, based in Gibsonia, PA, beam erection; and D. W. Miller Inc., of Huntington, PA, raised pavement markers.

Russell Standard Corporation was founded in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1929 by Niles E. Russell. It is now headquartered in Bridgeville, PA, with numerous branches in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. On July 26, 2001, Russell Standard Corporation lost its president and friend, Robert E. Everhart, in a car accident. As a tribute to his memory, the company’s Union City branch adopted the section of highway constructed during the course of this project and in cooperation with PennDOT are placing a memorial honoring him at one of its exits.

Antigo Construction Inc. has been breaking concrete since 1982, completing more than 2,500 jobs for more than 750 clients in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. Operating a fleet of 25 Badger Breakers, in 2001 Antigo rubblized 2.4 million sq. yds. (2 million sq m) of concrete as well as breaking/cracking and seating 2.4 million sq. yds. and breaking 3.3 million sq. yds. (2.8 million sq m) for removal.