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Stim Funds Spur Fast-Track SR 91 Widening Job in Calif.

Fri January 29, 2010 - West Edition
Erik Pisor

The largest Recovery Act-funded transportation project in Orange County, Calif. broke ground in early November 2009 and is on pace for a late 2010 completion due to an accelerated project schedule.

The $59.5 million project, which received $47.9 million in funding from President Obama’s Recovery Act, will widen 6 mi. (9.7 km) of eastbound State Route 91 in slightly more than a year’s time.

“To get job done by [the end of] 2010 we have to run concurrent activities,” said Fernando Chavarria, community relations officer of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). “We have different crews out there performing multiple tasks. You’re having excavators, masons and carpenters out there at the same time.”

By adding one general-purpose lane along 6 mi. of eastbound SR 91 — from State Route 241 to State Route 71 — and widening each eastbound lane to 12 ft. (3.7 m), the project will relieve congestion; increase freeway capacity; and eliminate a chronic traffic bottleneck.

“We’re increasing capacity but also optimizing driving conditions,” Chavarria said. He added that improving mobility within the corridor improves air quality as well.

The 6-mi. section of freeway where construction is occurring has an average daily traffic volume of 300,000, which is forecasted to increase to 425,000 by 2035.

“Using federal stimulus dollars to fast track this project means creating jobs today and bringing relief to drivers for decades to come,” said Peter Buffa, chairman of the OCTA.

SR 91 is considered a major transportation and goods movement corridor, as it’s the only freeway that connects Orange County to Riverside County.

“Locally it’s [the project site] at a place where counties converge. Nationally it’s a corridor that is thought of as a trade corridor.” Chavarria said.

Chavarria explained that goods and products that originate at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make their way inland and eastward via SR 91.

In addition to constructing a new eastbound lane and widening the existing eastbound lanes, Fontana, Calif.-based Brutoco Engineering and Construction — the project’s general contractor — also will widen freeway shoulders to 10 ft. (3 m), construct 12 retaining walls, and expand five bridges.

According to OCTA, construction equipment utilized by Brutoco and its subcontractors during construction will include: backhoes, a pile driver, aerial lifts, excavators, water trucks, air compressors, utility trucks, street sweepers and generators.

Because of the project’s accelerated timeline and the inability to shut down any traffic lanes between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Brutoco and its subs must conduct a significant amount of work during the evening, which represents one of the project’s main challenges.

Other challenges include environmental considerations and working within constrained spaces.

“[The contractors are] basically working between the shoulder and the foot of the hills,” Chavarria said.

On the environmental side of things, the project site runs along and meets up with the Cleveland National Forest and Chino Hills State Park.

As a result, the contractors, OCTA, and Caltrans district 12 have to constantly concern themselves with animal species and plant life protection.

As of late January, 5,061 tons (4,591 t) of concrete had been poured onsite and 30,000 cu. yd. (22,937 cu m) of dirt had been moved. When the project reaches completion 500 tons (454 t) of K-rail will have been installed.

During construction a minimal amount of fill will be imported to the project site, as earth moved onsite will be used elsewhere within the project’s limits.

Aside from Recovery Act funding, the project received $5 million in additional state funding through the Riverside County Transportation Commission and $6.6 million in funding from SR 91 express lane tolls.

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