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Timer Ready to Ding on ’Mixing Bowl’ Improvements

Tue May 08, 2007 - National Edition
Angela B. Hurni

After eight years of construction, the $676 million Springfield Interchange Improvement Project in northern Virginia remains on budget and on schedule for completion this summer.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) incorporated the improvements to the interchange, where I-95, I-395 and I-495 come together, as part of its Six-Year Program in order to improve traffic flow and make the highway safer for the 430,000 motorists that pass through daily.

This section of the 64-mi. (102.4 km) Capital Beltway has long been considered the most dangerous part of the highway due to the number of accidents that occur there. Construction on the final two phases of the project is under way.

VDOT’s Congestion Management Plan and the contractor’s safety record have helped carry this project to its finish.

Archer Western Contractors, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., was awarded a $99.8 million contract to complete Phases 6 and 7, the final two portions of the interchange; the company began construction in November 2004. Work during these phases consists of building 14 bridge structures, including ramps, flyovers and bridges, in addition to a total of 15 mi. (24 km) of roadway construction, shoulder work, demolition and signage.

Phases 6 and 7 also include completing the remainder of the northbound I-95 roadway and all remaining local and through traffic, ramps and HOV lanes. In addition, major connecting bridges from I-95 North to the Capital Beltway outer loop will be finished as well as on I-495 East/I-95 North toward Baltimore via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Workers also will finish the new I-95 North bridge directly over the Mixing Bowl onto the Capital Beltway inner loop, the section of I-495 North toward Tyson’s Corner, and the American Legion Bridge into Maryland toward Rockville.

According to Bernard Conway, Archer Western’s senior construction manager, all 14 bridge structures included in his company’s contract have been completed and were operational as of April 21. The largest bridge built during these two phases was approximately 1 mi. (1.6 km) long. The largest girders used during construction had a combined weight of 100 tons (90 t) and measured 180 ft. (540 m) long.

For the bridge work, Archer Western brought in its Liebherr LR 1400/2 450-ton (405 t) crawler crane. The company also used two 999 Manitowoc 275-ton (250 t) crawler cranes and a 777 Manitowoc 200-ton (180 t) crawler crane on the project.

“At times we had up to a dozen cranes on the job,” said Conway, including a variety of rough-terrain 80 to 150 ton ( 72 to 135 t) cranes.

When constructing the I-95 Northbound flyover, Archer Western performed a single placement of more than 2,000 cu. yds. (1,500 cu m) of concrete.

“We made the largest bridge deck placement in Virginia,” said Conway, “in excess of 2,000 [cubic] yards of concrete with five truck-mounted 50-meter concrete pumps.”

Three Bidwell finishing machines were used to finish the concrete deck.

Archer Western self performed a majority of the work on this contract. Conway explained: “It is a tough environment in Northern Virginia. In order to get the work done on an accelerated schedule, we self perform.”

The company completed, without subcontractors, all bridge construction from pile driving to foundations and bridge decks. Of five bridges that needed demolishing, Archer Western self-performed four and subcontracted the demolition of the remaining one. Grading and excavation on the project also was completed by Archer Western workers. Virginia Paving Co., with seven plants throughout northern Virginia, was a key subcontractor for Archer Western, supplying and placing 100,000 tons (90,000 t) of asphalt.

According to Conway, Archer Western is wrapping up its portion of the work on the Springfield Interchange Project. The contract mandated completion date is scheduled for July 18, but Conway said the company will be finished on June 30.

“Everything is usable right now,” Conway said. “We are performing the last of the surface drainage, landscaping, demolition of the last two bridges and minor punch list items.”

Part of the successful completion of this project can be attributed to the Congestion Management Plan (CMP) created by VDOT to help motorists during their daily commutes and to reduce motorists’ stress. When contributing money to a highway construction project, the federal government requires the state to have a suitable congestion plan.

The CMP for the Springfield Interchange, costing approximately $20 million, has been nationally recognized.

“The Springfield CMP was one of the best ever in the nation and used many unique and novel approaches to easing motorist stress,” said Steve Titunik, VDOT’s communications director for the Springfield Interchange Project. “We’ve received national awards for our CMP program along with visits from several states and highway officials from more than 40 countries.”

Titunik explained that when a major highway project is being built, the focus is on the “two Cs” — construction and communication. The essence of a good CMP helps relieve commuter stress by offering alternative commuter options during construction and communicating those options effectively.

The components of the Springfield CMP involved improvement to alternate routes around the interchange. Titunik explained this as “good distribution so you don’t keep traffic on the interstate.”

The CMP also facilitates emergency services and provides additional travel options for commuters. These options can include added Park and Ride lots, increased transit services, reduced transit fare packages and coordinated trains and van pools with local industries. The CMP also offers enhanced communication through the Internet and an authorized information center.

When the project is finished, some of these components will stay in place. Titunik refers to these things as “a gift to the project” since the cost did not come from the construction budget. Some of the “gifts” include the Park and Ride lots, particular road changes and lighting.

A first-rate CMP can have an indirect impact on safety in the work zone. Titunik said that it is obvious that “the less stress on motorists, the safer the work area.” Rush hour conditions in the Springfield Interchange work zone occur 21 hours a day. Titunik confirmed, “In northern Virginia, the tendency is rush hour most of the day.“

Nevertheless, Archer Western’s impressive safety record during the last two phases can be attributed to the contractor’s “training and communication,” said David Becker, Archer Western’s safety manager in Virginia.

Workers have accumulated more than 800,000 man hours in Phases 6 and 7 and have had no lost time accidents. Becker stated, “This company is dedicated to training their people.” Archer Western employs safety managers around the clock on all shifts and, according to Becker, “it makes a difference.”

When completed, the Springfield Interchange Project will be considered a success due to the challenging aspect of performing construction under high-traffic conditions. The Interchange plays a crucial role, Titunik summed up, “as a major north-south I-95 connecting point and critical to economic life on the East Coast and the movement of travelers north and south between Maine and Florida.” CEG

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