Three major snow storms in April and serious rainfalls in May have hampered the work of Rapid City, S.D.-based Heavy Constructors Inc. on the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s project to rebuild the eastbound lanes between the 8 and 17 mile section of Interstate 90 that passes through the city of Spearfish.
Located 40 mi. (64 km) west of Rapid City along I 90, the three-phase project will see 7 mi. (11 km) of road (two lanes) rebuilt by Nov. 1, the westbound lanes rebuilt in 2014, and between 2015-2016, 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) of the road within the heart of the town.
The first phase, valued at $12,387,037, saw work begin in March.
“The road is basically worn out,” said Tom Stalley, Heavy Constructors project manager. “It was built in the early 1960s and the pavement has just deteriorated to the point where maintenance is no longer feasible.”
The in-place concrete pavement will be replaced with non-reinforced PPC pavement. Aside from some minor lighting installation, there are no utility issues to deal with. In addition to rebuilding the road, five structures are being rehabilitated — the off-ramp structure for exit 10, the Spearfish Creek Bridge and three continuously reinforced concrete bridges between exits 12 and 17.
The first phase of the work is divided into six sections and in total, 24,000 cu. yds. (18,349 cu m) of concrete pavement, between 8 and 9 in. (20 and 22.8 cm) thick, will be removed and recycled for use in future projects.
When completed, the new road will consist of 126,000 sq. yds. (10,535 sq m) of PCC Pavement, 103,000 tons (9,344 t) of granular base, and five new rehabilitated bridges.
“Once the concrete is off and the existing granular and asphalt below it,” said Stalley, “it’s basically reshaping the existing grade to a new profile that is more in line with today’s standards.”
The first task was to set the project up for head-to-head traffic and on April 1, crews from Heavy Constructors and its subcontractors began the work. The first three phases must be completed by July 24 in time for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which is expected to attract 500,000 riders and will halt work on the project until Aug. 12.
The project must be open to traffic by Nov. 1, and overall completion of Dec. 20 because it is an incentive/disincentive project.
The weather has not been helpful thus far.
“We had solid rain for several weeks in April and May and one particular rain storm in mid-May left up to 10 inches of water and on May 28 we received another four inches of rain,” said Stalley. “Having all-night shifts is one of the options. We haven’t been able to do that yet. When we get to the point where we have the gravel, we’ve talked about part of our paving crews working evening and night hours to try to stay ahead of the paving operation, which will be done during the day. We’ve scheduled our work, thus far, six days a week, 12 hours a day.”
The sections scheduled for completion by July 24 must be ready for use by the rally.
Another challenge has been dealing with the existing sub-grade.
“It’s soft and we’ve had to make changes to the contract as far as doing additional undercut and reworking of the grade,” said Stalley.
This requires Heavy Constructors and the subcontractors to maximize their efforts and coordinating these efforts is essential. Heavy Constructors holds two internal meetings per-week on a weekly basis to review schedules and work done, and the firm meets with the subcontractors and officials from SDDOT weekly at Spearfish’s city hall to review progress and help resolve problems.
“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Stalley.
The major subcontractors include Traffic Services Company (permanent striping and traffic control signage), Hilt Engineering (removal and replacement of guard rails on all structures, erosion control, and final permanent seeding of the project), Zandstra Construction (grading and gravelling), Brosz Engineering (survey and profile), Muth Electric (vehicle identification system) Fiberwrap Construction Services (bridge column repair), and Southern Dakota Contracting, (diamond grinding of bridge decks).
When the work reaches it peak, the site will have more than 70 workers. Heavy Constructors has three crews working on the bridges — this work was unaffected by the weather. The closed section of road has provided sufficient space for the location of temporary offices, storage of materials, repair facilities and the parking of vehicles and equipment.
Zandstra Construction almost exclusively uses Caterpillar equipment, including scrapers, bulldozers, excavators motorgraders, skid steers, and tractors. Heavy Constructors essentially uses Gomaco equipment for its paving. On this job it is employing a Gomaco 2800 two-track concrete paver, a Gomaco 2600 two-track spreader, and a Gomaco cure tine machine — a three-piece train.
The firm purchases and rents its Gomaco equipment from a Gomaco dealer in Ida Grove, Iowa. A 9500 Gomaco trimmer was rented as the firm’s trimmer is being currently employed at on the project to rebuild Jackson Boulevard in Rapid City.
Heavy Constructors’ fleet include skid steers, backhoes and other vehicles that have been purchased from Caterpillar, Bobcat and John Deere dealerships in Rapid City such as Jenner Equipment, DMI, Butler Caterpiller and RDO Equipment.
Stalley said that subcontractors have full-time mechanics on site and that once the main work begins, Heavy Contractors will have one full-time mechanic present. Each subcontractor is handling its own repair work and if Heavy Constructors’ equipment cannot be repaired on site, it will either be handled by a dealership or by the firm’s repair and maintenance shop in Rapid City.
He added that the weather conditions have not impacted the equipment. To ensure preventative maintenance schedules are being followed, the superintendent keeps a maintenance log and if necessary, crews are brought in from the maintenance shop.
“When we do have a problem, it’s usually something unexpected,” said Stalley, who stressed how important the eyes and ears of the operators are. “Part of their job is to be cognizant of equipment and to make sure that if something is not acting right, that their supervisor is informed and then it is forwarded to me.”
The weather may be a factor, but well-maintained equipment is ensuring that work is being maximized by all parties.
Stalley said the lessons being learned thus far are helpful.
“We’ve already learned enough that we will be highly more efficient when we resume the work after the rally,” he said, noting how firm is keen to secure the two contracts to complete the entire Spearfish project. “We’ve got an extremely good working relationship with the DOT — open communication, talking through issues and trying to resolve them as timely as possible.”
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