The goal of the job is to improve safety on this busy thoroughfare.(Connecticut Department of Transportation photo)
Interstate 95 continues to be one of the most important transportation corridors in the country, extending from south Florida to northern Maine. Transportation planners and contractors in Connecticut are shoring up a section of this vital roadway in Norwalk. The cost of the project is expected to be $104 million. The venture began in the summer of 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
The goal of the job is to improve safety on this busy thoroughfare. Yonkers Contracting plans to use an innovative procedure that will save time and improve safety by executing a "bridge slide." The contractor and its team will build the I-95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue in Westport, then slide the enormous structure into place in late summer.
The two major concerns for the project are motorist safety and congestion.
"Our road teams will be reconstructing the center median and right shoulders along with resurfacing the main highway and ramps at interchanges 16 and 17," said Josh Morgan, spokesperson of Connecticut Department of Transportation. "The new median will be consistent with other stretches of I-95 to provide a six-foot wide capped concrete barrier section.
"The project builders will increase shoulder widths where possible, making it safer for disabled vehicles," Morgan added. "The workers will also replace drainage structures and set up new highway illumination. The construction team will install new guide rail and reflective markings for increased visibility of pavement in wet conditions."
In addition to the innovative construction on the I-95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue, the construction team will carry out repairs on bridges over Franklin Street and the Saugatuck River. For this part of the project, workers will replace expansion joints and install new standpipes on the bridges.
The contractors will be taking on other infrastructure-related tasks.
"The construction team will be expanding Hendricks Avenue Park and Ride commuter lot, will improve the stormwater quality treatment, handle utility relocation and extend the Yankee Doodle Trail," Morgan said.
The trail runs along the Norwalk River and connects pedestrians and cyclists with North and South Norwalk. The trail had been closed for nearly three years during bridge construction.
Work on the trail was just one "green" aspect of the project.
"We wanted to improve the environmental quality of this area," Morgan said. "This included the creation of a wetland, detention basin and sedimentation pond. We will also install hydrodynamic separators to improve the quality of the flow draining into the Norwalk River. The team will remove invasive vegetation species and perform substantial landscaping throughout the I-95 project."
In addition, workers will be planting vegetation on the riverbank to hold the earth in place during heavy rainstorms.
The work on the I-95 project will require large amounts of material, including:
- 130,000 tons of polymer-modified asphalt,
- 36,000 cu. yds. of concrete,
- 2,100 cu. yds. of concrete pavement repairs,
- 2,500 cu. yds. of rock excavation,
- 25,000 cu. yds. of earth excavation, and
- 11,000 cu. yds. of channel excavation.
The project required an American Augers Quick Tran Boring Machine to drill, then to jack a 42-in. pipe under a ramp and bridge adjacent to I-95. In addition, the team leaned heavily on a regular array of equipment including cranes, dozers, excavators and paving equipment. The heavy equipment used was primarily company-owned Caterpillar machines.
One of the highlights of the project promises to be the bridge slide, scheduled for late summer. The newly constructed I-95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue consists of northbound and southbound bridges. They will be built parallel to I-95 and moved into place after the current bridge is demolished. The slides are planned to take place on separate weekends.
A steel rail system with rollers will slide into place and then jack the bridge into final position.
Fred Cardillo, senior project manager of Yonkers Contracting, described the process as the Accelerate Bridge Construction technique.
"This novel process is quite different from the traditional way of bridge construction," he said. "The traffic is very heavy on I-95. It would cause a lot of congestion to divert traffic and squeeze it down a couple of lanes at a time while we do construction on a new bridge."
The plan calls for traffic to be diverted onto a southbound bridge, then closed for the northbound bridge. The northbound section would then be demolished.
"The existing abutments and piers would be left intact at an elevation below the new bridge," Cardillo said. "The new bridge would then be rolled into place then jacked onto the new abutments. Once the paving is complete, traffic would be returned to the northbound lanes."
The demolition of the remainder of the abutments would be completed after the new bridge is in place.
This monumental effort would have immediate payoff.
"This approach would minimize the impact to I-95," Cardillo said. "Instead of inconvenience for months, the inconvenience would last only two weekends. Of course, motorists would be informed well in advance of the procedure."
Like most major construction projects, the I-95 project in Norwalk and Westport has battled labor shortages and supply chain constraints. Cardillo believes the payoff will be well worth it.
"The interstate should have less congestion, of course," he said. "But also, the full shoulders will lessen the impact to traffic of crashes and disabled vehicles." CEG
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