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Worley-Setters Work Nears Completion

Tue October 28, 2008 - West Edition
Rebecca Ragain

Approximately 20 mi. south of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, crews are working to wrap up this year’s construction on sections of U.S. 95 and ID 58 before winter’s deep cold sets in.

“We anticipate an opening probably late October or the first of November,” said construction manager J.J. Johnson.

Johnson is part of Connecting Idaho Partners, a joint venture of the Washington Division of URS Corporation and CH2M HILL. The Idaho Transportation Department has contracted the JV to act as program manager for improvement projects in six major transportation corridors that are being funded by Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds.

The GARVEE-funded project on which Johnson and his team are currently working is a 5.25-mi. (8.4 km) segment of U.S. 95 running south from Setters to just north of the town of Worley. The general contractor for the project is M.A. DeAtley Construction of Clarkston, Wash.

The Worley-Setters project, which is separated into three phases, widens U.S. 95 from a two-lane highway to a four-lane, divided highway.

It also includes a new interchange where ID 58 and U.S. 95 converge. The old configuration was an at-grade “T” intersection. The new design re-aligns 58 to cross over 95, thereby making it easier for traffic to reach the nearby Coeur d’Alene Casino. Ramps will allow drivers to get on 95 going either north or south.

After Connecting Idaho Partners received the notice to proceed in spring 2007, crews began preliminary work on the re-aligned ID 58 and on the four bridges included in the project. Traffic remained in its original alignment during this first phase.

Phase 2 is on track for completion this year, including the building of all southbound lanes and most of the northbound lanes. In this phase, Johnson said, “You see closure to a lot of the work: The 58 gets built and opened, and the U.S. 95 re-alignment is substantially completed and opened.”

Phase 3, scheduled to begin this spring and to be completed in August, will add the north and south tie-in connections of U.S. 95 northbound. In addition, some portions of the old U.S. 95 will be obliterated. Some older sections of 95 will remain to act as a lane to the casino.

“Rather than build a bunch of new roads into the casino, it made more sense economically to try to re-use existing facilities,” explained Johnson.

The job is fairly straightforward in terms of equipment, according to Dusty Forsmann, M.A. DeAtley Construction’s manager for the project: five dozers, 11 scrapers, three blades and one loader, plus 14 Kenworth belly dump trucks. All machines are from the contractor’s fleet; Caterpillar brand predominates.

M.A. DeAtley Construction’s bid for the project was $39.7 million; project costs have since increased to an estimated $47 to $48 million. One reason for the overrun is escalating fuel costs, which added approximately $1 million.

Unexpected soil conditions were another major contributing factor.

Although the JV’s engineers realized that local drainage patterns would make the ground silt and clay-heavy in places, the soft areas turned out to be bigger than estimated. So crews had to over-excavate, put down biaxial geogrid, and put in suitable borrow material to bring the area up to subgrade.

“We encountered a lot of soft soils that made it very tough to start work out there in the spring time,” said Forsmann. “We had to use twin-engine scrapers, push-pulls, to start with, as the conventional 631 scrapers weren’t able to get around.”

The soft soil conditions put M.A. DeAtley Construction behind schedule as soon as they started the excavation phase in spring 2008. To catch up, they ran double shifts until excavation was finished.

In areas where the clay was shallow, attempts were made to dry the material rather than remove it. Crews would disc the ground and let it dry, then roll and compact it. But most areas were too deep for that to be efficient, according to Johnson, who points out “you don’t want to have to wait a year” for the material to dry out.

Additional complications arose during the earthwork for the bridges. Johnson said that the team knew “right off the bat” that they would need to build work platforms to compensate for the extremely wet ground in those areas. They planned to lay down 2 ft. of drain rock to stabilize the ground.

“It turns out that 2 feet, which was anticipated, was not enough material,” Johnson said. “We had to make it about 4 feet thick.”

Despite these challenges, Forsmann reports that work is progressing nearly a season ahead of schedule.

The Worley-Setters project is the third segment of a reconstruction effort improving approximately 20 mi. (32 km) of U.S. 95 between Worley and Coeur d’Alene. The first segment, from Bellgrove to Mica (immediately south of Coeur d’Alene) was finished in 2003. The second, between Bellgrove and Setters, was completed in 2007.

Improvements also are scheduled south of the Worley-Setters project, along a short section of U.S. 95 that passes through Worley. This work, which is not funded by GARVEE bonds, will tentatively take place under a separate contract. CEG

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