Work Enters the 'Last Mile' on New England Thruway

Mon December 23, 2019 - Northeast Edition #26
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


A Manitowoc 11000-1 crawler crane hoists a new steel bridge girder into place.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo)
A Manitowoc 11000-1 crawler crane hoists a new steel bridge girder into place. (New York State Thruway Authority photo)
A Manitowoc 11000-1 crawler crane hoists a new steel bridge girder into place.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo) A Volvo 235 with hydraulic hammer attachment breaks up blasted rock while a Volvo 460 loads it into a Mack tri-axle dump.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo) Ironworkers prepare a section of a temporary bridge structure, which will be pushed into place by a Komatsu D155 dozer.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo) A remote-controlled Comacchio MC28 drills micropiles to support a new bridge footing.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo) Construction crews are in the midst of a $135 million infrastructure project that will complete reconstruction of the final mile of a section of the New England Thruway (I-95) that carries traffic from New York City to the Connecticut border.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo) Construction is expected to be completed in 2021.
(New York State Thruway Authority photo)

Construction crews are in the midst of a $135 million infrastructure project that will complete reconstruction of the final mile of a section of the New England Thruway (I-95) that carries traffic from New York City to the Connecticut border. The work marks the end of a long and often challenging undertaking.

"Over the past several decades, 14 miles of I-95 in the Bronx, Pelham, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Harrison and Rye have been reconstructed, with the remaining mile from exit 22 to the Connecticut state line left to be complete," said Richard Lee, New York State Thruway Authority chief engineer. Completing the ‘Last Mile' is significant, because it will bring the roadway to modern standards, increase safety and improve travel for the 140,000 motorists who travel this stretch daily, as well as improve the quality of life for the residents who live nearby."

Construction is expected to be completed in 2021. Lee said having come so far on the New England Thruway project is extremely gratifying.

"The New York State Thruway Authority prides itself on the quality and safety of its roadway. This was a long-anticipated and needed project for the Thruway Authority, as well as motorists who travel this section of I-95, and the surrounding community.

"After years of discussions and planning, we moved forward with the project in 2018 with the start of construction. This is a critical infrastructure project that will provide safety, mobility improvements and quality of life components supporting New York's growing economic, transportation and community needs."

ECCO III Enterprises Inc. from Yonkers, N.Y., serves as the general contractor. The project was designed to align with Gov. Cuomo's Drivers First Initiative, to ensure construction will have the least possible impact on motorists.

"Work is being completed in stages, with lanes maintained to accommodate traffic volume demand and minimize disruptions," said Lee. "During construction, motorists can expect traffic shifts, detours and temporary traffic stops. Motorists are urged to be alert and follow the posted work zone speed limits.

"The Thruway Authority has worked extensively with the community over several years to discuss the project. Feedback received from the community was integral in making adjustments to the design, such as the addition of the visual barrier and maintaining one lane of traffic on the Grace Church Street Bridge through construction. The Thruway Authority developed a website dedicated to this project and has remained available to provide information and answer questions from community members and motorists throughout the project."

Lee noted that projects of this magnitude are not entered into lightly.

"It requires extensive planning with community members, municipal offices, utility providers and emergency responders. The surrounding vicinity is densely populated, and we were very focused on trying to mitigate the impact on residents as much as possible.

"Designing this project was complex because of the extent of improvements being made in this corridor, such as realigning the ramp from Midland Avenue to go under I-287. As with all Thruway projects, the goal is for motorists to appreciate and enjoy the finished product."

Lee added, "When this project is complete, motorists will experience improved travel and safety in this area with the reconstruction of the mainline, which includes safety upgrades such as wider shoulders, updated pavement markings and the installation of guiderails and barriers. Ramp upgrades, bridge replacement and rehabilitation, as well as the installation of noise walls and visual barriers, will enhance safety for motorists and improve the quality of life for residents."

Christopher Terrizzi, Thruway Authority construction project supervisor, said safety during construction is paramount.

"That means ensuring safe travel for motorists with advance notice of shifting traffic or road closures and safety to the workers who are, in some cases, inches away from motorists driving by. The challenge is to pay attention, drive safely and to slow down and move over."

The elements can affect the project schedule, as the contractor cannot close any lanes of I-95 and/or I-287 to complete work. Additionally, there is limited concrete and backfill work during rain events and freezing temperatures.

"We have northeast weather to contend with, meaning cold snowy winters and often rainy spring and summers that can impact when stages of the project are accomplished. Because of the scope and scale of the project, staging, schedules and availability of specific machinery are linked together into what we hope to be a seamlessly coordinated ballet of worker, machine and material.

"If any aspect of that choreography is disrupted, the challenge is being able to move forward without missing a beat. Finally, as this is one of the busiest corridors on the East Coast, lane reductions are not simple to undertake, and when done, are during limited hours to avoid impacting rush hours."

Since construction got under way, several areas of the project have been completed, including one half of the Grace Church Street Bridge replacement project over I-95. Workers have also finished the installation of a prefabricated temporary bridge for use while the I-287 bridge to northbound I-95 is demolished and reconstructed.

A noise wall also has been put in place along the northbound I-95 corridor from Midland Avenue to Grace Church Street, as has a 48 in. diameter storm drain crossing I-95. A significant amount of paving also has taken place.

As for the condition of the site before work began, said Terrizzi, "This section of I-95 was original to the construction of the Thruway, dating back to the 1950s. This project will bring this section of the Thruway up to current standards, while improving conditions that were frustrating to motorists, specifically the ramp from I-287 to I-95 northbound, and eliminating a stop sign for motorists entering I-95 northbound from Midland Avenue.

"To eliminate the stop sign, we are realigning the on-ramp from Midland Avenue to go under I-287 so that traffic flows smoothly onto I-95 northbound. We are also performing full depth reconstruction to the roadway to create a more comfortable road surface. Over the years, as a result of high volume passenger and commercial traffic and freeze/thaw cycles, the riding and substructure were in poor condition."

Replacement of the second half of the Grace Church Street Bridge is ongoing, with demolition in progress. Installation of the noise wall located on I-95 southbound from the Byram River Bridge to the Grace Church Street Bridge continues, while retaining walls are being constructed along I-95 southbound from the exit 21 ramp to I-287 westbound, and from I-95 northbound adjacent to I-287 eastbound.

Rock remediation continues at various locations along the project site, with 90 percent of remediation complete. Installation of storm drainage systems at various locations is being performed, along with construction of the new I-287 bridge to northbound I-95.

There are various elements involved in the reconstruction of the I-95 mainline. Workers are widening the mainline where the Grace Church Street Bridge is located. A new storm drainage system will be installed, as well as new cast in place and precast roadway slabs. Crews are also lowering the I-95 northbound profile up to 3 ft.

Tasks required for the replacement of the Grace Church Street Bridge over I-95 and the I-287 eastbound to I-95 northbound ramp bridge includes earth work, the demolition of the existing structure, the construction of new concrete footings and stem walls, structural steel erection and concrete deck placement, parapet installation and utility relocation.

Work involved in the rehabilitation of the Boston Post Road bridge, the Purchase Street bridge, the Blind Brook culvert bridge and the Byram River Bridge includes removing delaminated concrete, placing new concrete, bearing and joint replacement and parapet wall repairs.

The Grace Church Street Bridge over I-95 and the I-287 eastbound to I-95 northbound ramp bridge are anticipated to be complete by spring 2020. Repairs on the other four bridges should be finished by the end of summer 2021.

Equipment being used during construction includes Kobelco, Liebherr LR 1200, Grove RT 600E and Manitowoc cranes, as well as Caterpillar 320, 324, 336, 365 and Volvo 235, 240, 360, 460 excavators, Caterpillar dozers, Caterpillar 966 loaders, Comacchio MC 28 and Bauer BG15 drill rigs, JLG 800S manlifts and Mack and Volvo trucks. Some of the main materials required for this project include pre-cast and cast in place concrete, steel and asphalt.

Approximately 120,000 cu. yds. of material will be removed on the project, including 80,000 yds. of soil and 40,000 yds. of rock. One of the most time-consuming aspects is working with the existing rocky terrain in the area.

"This impacts the drilling for noise/retaining wall footings, and involves blasting for new bridge foundations and storm drainage installation, and the widening and realignment of the I-95 corridor," said Terrizzi.

He added, "This is an important transportation infrastructure project that will significantly improve travel in the area. We appreciate the community's patience and support as work progresses on this project." CEG