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Work Moving Forward to Replace 14 Mi. of I-65 in Ind.

The north-south highway, built in the 1960s, is showing its age and needs to be replaced and widened.

Thu April 23, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Irwin Rapoport

With funding from Indiana’s Major Moves 2020 Trust Fund, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is spending $120 million to reconstruct and widen 14 consecutive mi. (22.5 km) of Interstate 65 just outside of Indianapolis between Southport Road to Main Street/Greenwood (3 mi. [4.8 km], $35.8 million, north side) and Main Street/Greenwood to Franklin (11 mi. [17.7 km], $84 million, south side).

The north-south highway, built in the 1960s, is showing its age and needs to be replaced and widened. Where there are three lanes, a fourth shall be added and for the sections with two lanes, a third will be added. A 35-ft. (10.7 m) median, covered with grass, separates the lanes.

Daily traffic on this stretch of I-65 consists of more than 97,000 cars and trucks.

The lifespan of this stretch of road has been reached and this is the first Major Moves 2020 project to be started.

“We have excavation work taking place on both sides of I-65, fairly minor bridge work, and we’ve started on the first of two sections sound wall,” said Harry Maginity, INDOT’s media officer southeast district (Seymour). “The roads built in the 1960s are showing their age. Obviously they have had repairs and work done on them, but they were originally projected to last for 25 years and we have 50 years on them. We held them together pretty well, but this project gives us the opportunity to totally rebuild them and provide additional capacity.”

Until work on the south side begins, the contractor is required via the contract to do appropriate repairs to keep highway in good shape for motorists and this includes patching. We have a lot of deteriorated road out there where we’ve had minor failures in pavement.”

Input from companies like Milestone is key to ensuring that projects are completed on-time and on-budget and INDOT holds “weekly progress meetings and regular partnering meetings that include local officials,” said Maginity.

INDOT is aware of the inconveniences this work will create over the next one and a half years for the public.

“But this is construction season and people are getting used to seeing a lot of highway work the spring to the fall,” said Maginity. “They have seen proceeding projects where we have shifted lanes from northbound to southbound and vice-versa. In total they are satisfied that we are increasing capacity on roadways in a highly congested area. I don’t know if they realize the significance of reconstruction, but they’ll take it in stride.

“Where the public does kick back is when you have lane closures and they don’t see anybody out there working,” he added, “but we have crews there 24 hours a day, six days a week and they are going to see people and trucks in the work zone. They’ll be happy with that.”

The reconstruction is being handled by Milestone Contractors LP, whose equipment and personnel motorists will be seeing, with the 3 mi. section to be completed as the first task.

“They are both design-build contracts,” said Scott Cornelius, Milestone vice president and area manager of Indianapolis, “so that in itself is a challenge from a time standpoint in order to get all of the project designed in time to meet a pretty aggressive completion date. We are working with our design-build partners, Parsons Transportation Group and United Consulting to expedite the construction plans, but the process takes time. This will require us to perform some construction activities around the clock and work at least six days per-week. If time is lost due to weather, Sunday work could become necessary.”

The work began last fall with the installation of temporary pavement prior to shutting down for the winter — between early December and March 15. The next phase will see the reconstruction of the current lanes and the addition of one lane on each side. The south side, which will have crews starting the work in July, must be completed by the fall of 2016.

“We’re currently in the design phase and we’ll work through this season this year,” said Cornelius. “Other than some possible bridge work, we’ll shut down for the winter and resume in the spring.”

Managing traffic will be a major challenge for both projects and the best practices learned for the north section will be applied to the south section.

“We do have to maintain the current number of lanes of traffic at all times, other than during certain hours at night and some weekends,” said Cornelius. “We’ll be shifting vehicles left to right or using crossovers throughout each phase of the work. It is a very heavily travelled roadway.”

To help protect the crews, concrete barriers will be placed to separate them from oncoming traffic, as well as having reduced speed limits and additional police patrols.

“One of the concerns that we have is that a tremendous amount of material has to be transported in and out of the area — for removal and replacement,” said Cornelius. “We have approximately one million tons of hot mix asphalt to place and those trucks have to come in and out of gaps in our concrete barrier. This will be difficult with such high volumes of traffic. The barrier helps, but it’s certainly not safety proof and there are still concerns about the large number of trucks that will be travelling adjacent to the barrier wall.”

Thus far, motorists have been diverted to the middle of the highway onto some of the temporary pavement. The north section has three lanes in each direction. Part of the initial work includes the construction of a new lane and shoulder.

When all of the work is completed, Milestone expects to remove 300,000 tons (272,155 t) of asphalt, 350,000 tons (317,514.6 t) of concrete, and 500,000 cu. yd. (418,063.7 cu m) of earth. Some of the materials will be re-used on site.

“We pulverized the existing asphalt shoulder in-place and have incorporated it into the construction of the embankment,” said Cornelius, who noted that the lanes will be 12 ft. (3.65 m)-wide and the shoulders 10-ft. (3 m) wide on the outside and 4-ft. (1.2 m) wide on the inside. For the new 14 mi. (22.5 km) of road, Milestone will be using 50,000 tons (45,359 t) of concrete, 1 million tons (907,184.7 t) of asphalt, and 230,000 tons (208,652.5 t) of aggregate.

The current roadway is based on contiguously reinforced concrete pavement with an asphalt overlay. The new road will consist of a full-depth asphalt pavement — 17 in. (43 cm) of new asphalt on top of a 14 in. (35.6 cm) cement treated sub-grade, a design provided by INDOT. After the highways are replaced, Milestone will be replacing the grass in the median area.

The spring weather has proven to be a major challenge.

“We’re opening everything up and we have to go all the way down to the dirt,” said Cornelius, “which can become mud in the kind of weather we’ve been having — we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain here in the past few weeks and we’re looking at another week of it in the immediate forecast.”

In terms of subcontractors, a few Milestone has brought in are MAMCO for milling, Certified Engineering for construction engineering, Gridlock Traffic Systems for striping and maintenance of traffic, C-Tech Corporation for guardrail, James H. Drew for panel signs, Earth Images for erosion control and seeding, and Indiana Reline for pipe lining.

Along with approximately 50 Milestone personnel on site, there will be an average of 30 people from the subcontractors at the work site on a daily basis. This project has crews working Mondays to Saturdays for 10 to 12 hour shifts. The removal process and paving segment will have crews working double-shifts. The winter break has construction halted between mid-December and mid-March, which has given Milestone the opportunity to prepare its construction plans and have the vehicles and equipment in full-working order.

Equipment-wise for the north section, Milestone is employing (owned, leased, or rented): two Cat CP56 padfoot rollers and one Cat CP56B padfoot roller; five D6KXL Cat dozers GPSs, one Cat D6RXL cab dozer, and one Cat D6K LGP cab dozer GPS; a Broce KR350 broom w/blade; a Cat 420EIT backhoe cab brm; a Wirtgen WR2400 reclaimer; three Cat excavators — a Cat 328D CR excavator, a Cat 336EL excavator, and a Cat 336EL hybrid excavator; two Cat 140H graders — one with GPS and one with GPS/laser); and an IR SD122DX dirt roller.

Although Milestone’s shop is only 10 mi. (16.1 km) away on the south side of Indianapolis, it will have a full-time mechanic posted with every paving shift.

“It makes a difference,” said Cornelius. “We just have so many pieces of equipment that we need to have immediate support on site.”

Milestone has a construction office at a nearby building and adjacent to the highway are several staging areas, including one at in-field of a nearby interchange. This has provided Milestone with sufficient space for field offices; storage areas for construction materials, spare parts, and fuel and oils; equipment repair areas, and for the subcontractors to set up their support bases.

Cornelius noted that routine maintenance is performed in-between shifts and that additional mechanical support is provided by its equipment shop or equipment manufacturer dealerships. Milestone has an equipment manager who is responsible for purchases and rental agreements.

Although the road is being replaced, Milestone crews will be performing routine maintenance on the existing lanes until the new road is completed.

The project also includes underground infrastructure work, such as the replacement and extension of some crossroad drainage structures.

“There are also some utilities that are relocating due to interference with some of the construction,” said Cornelius. “Citizens Energy Group is relocating some of its gas lines and some water lines will be moved. We’re all working together through regularly scheduled meetings to coordinate the work.”

For the north section, only the bridge/overpasses will be experiencing some minor repairs, but this will expand with the south section when six mainline structures will either be rehabilitated or replaced entirely.

Having crews that will be working on both projects ensures that the knowledge gained (on local conditions) shall not be lost, including safety issues.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Cornelius, “not just for our workers, but also for the motorists. For a project like this, you really do have to stay focused on this at all times.”

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