Industry News

Divided Highways-Urban (SILVER)

Elgin O’Hare Western Access Tollway (IL Rte 390 & I-290 Interchange), Cook County, IL
Contractor: Acura, Inc.
Owner: Illinois State Toll Highway Authority
Engineer: CH2M Hill

Negotiating the busy interchange between Illinois 53/I-290 and Thorndale Avenue in the Northwest suburbs of Cook County was rarely quick or easy. But thanks to this Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) project, any unpleasant thoughts have been replaced by an awareness of the convenience and efficiency that came from the construction of a new interchange.

Completely rebuilding and expanding that interchange while maintaining traffic volumes of more than 176,000 vehicles per day on the Interstate and over 78,000 vehicles per day on Thorndale Ave. acan best be described as a marvel of bridge and road construction management, as well as construction staging to maintain the lane capacity to handle high volumes. These sections of roadway and highway are considered main arteries for much of the busy commerce and many commuters in the Northwest suburbs, as well as traffic feeding into the growing areas west of O’Hare airport. Closure of these heavily-trafficked facilities simply was not an option.

This complex project required using two agencies’ requirements and specifications – the tollway authority and the Illinois DOT’s. Acura, Inc., as part of its subcontract to build the pavement on these busy IDOT and tollway sections was able to do so while maintaining a high level of quality required by both agencies.

The project involved placing almost 83,000 SY of concrete for a total of 11.78 lane mi. Within the project there were 10 intersections/interchanges and 10 bridges along the route. The concrete pavement thickness was 10.5 in. on 3 in. asphalt base. The ternary concrete mixture was developed to the tollway’s specifications and was transported by ready-mixed trucks/agitors. Stringless paving meant up to three trucks could discharge ahead of the paver simultaneously, increasing efficiency of the paving operation.

The extremely heavy traffic on this busy tollway/DOT interchange necessitated the use of both lane reductions and staging to ensure a minimum of six lanes open on the northbound/southbound sections and four lanes on the eastbound/westbound sections. In addition, all ramps were required to maintain at least one lane open for traffic during the construction.

This project also dovetails into the tollway’s experimental CRCP sections. Though not part of this actual contract, Acura had to provide transitions to CRCP in order to accommodate future contracts that did implement the various research sections. To accomplish this, a jointed concrete to CRCP transition section was required. The combination of stringless paving and the use of a dowel-bar inserter ensured high productivity and the ability to have access to most of the points in the project.

Divided Highways-Rural (GOLD)

US119 CoLine-Crossover Rd, Mt. Pleasant, PA
Contractor:  Golden Triangle Construction Co., Inc.   
Owner: Pennsylvania DOT           
Engineer: SAI Engineers    

Golden Triangle Construction Co., Inc was awarded this two-year, $37.8 million reconstruction project by the Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT).   This highway reconstruction project was located on State Route 119 in East Huntingdon, PA.

The roughly 5-mi. long, two-lane divided highway project included more than 190,000 SY of 12 in. jointed concrete pavement; almost 3.4 miles of upgraded drainage and stormwater retention systems, median upgrades with concrete barrier separation; paving inside shoulders; and mine stabilization.

Some major project highlights include: cement soil stabilization, a roller compacted concrete truck-inspection area, recycled concrete for site stabilization and toe bench rock, ASR concrete, long-life concrete, roughly 14,500 lineal ft of concrete glare screen barrier, and mine shaft repair with concrete support columns.  The project also included lime soil stabilization, an onsite concrete batch plant and a DBI concrete paver along with other emerging technologies.

A winter shutdown was mandated, during which no work could take place from November 1 to April 1. With the amount of work that needed to take place in two seasons, the winter presented a challenge to an already tight schedule.

During the paving season, Golden Triangle crews worked overtime to allow the adjacent paving to coincide with cure times for the mainline and ramps. A utility delay in the project schedule occurred when a utility company did not move their line before the planned date.  

In the second year, work on a mainline section was halted for a month in order to allow the utility contractor to move a line that would have been exposed if not lowered under the subgrade. In the first year, unusually high temperatures impacted daytime placement of concrete placements. During that time, most the concrete was placed at night during cooler temperatures.  High temperatures in both years necessitated installing  a water chiller at the contractor’s batch plant.

Also in the second year, large rain storm events delayed concrete paving almost a month. From April to July, it rained and average of three days per week almost every week. It was difficult to coordinate concrete pours with the weather and other project demands, but crews once again worked weekends when rain was not forecasted.  

A late warm spell in the first year allowed the crews to into November and December for smaller concrete pours. This was a huge help as progress was delayed in late fall due to some unforeseen conditions and changes to the subgrade and pavement design. Warm weather in the late fall, early winter is unusual in the northeast where the end of October is usually the end of concrete paving, without being forced to use artificial heat or concrete blankets.

There were also design issues with two of the on ramps, which forced Golden Triangle to reschedule the ramp closure work. In the first year, construction of a ramp was scheduled during the school season, but was pushed to later summer so that ramp could remain open to school buses and the elevated traffic levels. In the second phase, a ramp closure was unexpectedly prolonged for a full year, instead of just 42 days as planned. To solve the Golden Triangle worked out of sequence to reconstruct the ramp and correct the grade issues in the beginning of the season rather than later in the year. This allowed the work to be performed safely and quickly.  The ramp closure work was completed in 39 days and opened early in order to open in time for the Memorial Day traffic.

This project also had several sustainability factors, including:

  • Selection by PennDOT for the study of preventive measures to address Alkali-Silica Reactivity in pavement, based on the AASHTO PP65-11 program.
  • Construction of a 500 ft section using an optimized long-life concrete mixture, which the contractor requested to be used in the mainline pavement as a trial for future optimized mixes.
  • Use of a central mix batch plant to produce 64,000 CY of concrete, cement-treated permeable base course, and roller compacted concrete. This allowed a more consistent concrete mixture and fewer trucks to deliver the material, thereby burning less fossil fuel and minimizing the environmental impacts.  The plant also used three-phase power instead of diesel generators, which saved thousands of gallons of fuel, plus even more fuel to deliver the diesel to the site.
  • Recycled and reused materials throughout the project. This included more than 25,000 CY of concrete pavement, 4,500 linear ft of concrete median barrier, and limestone aggregate.

Despite the complexity of the project, as well as unforeseen delays, Golden Triangle completed the work in just 20 working months.  The hard work and dedication by more than 130 employees showcased a beautiful concrete highway which provides the owner, tax payers and motorists a superior and durable project. 


Divided Highways-Rural (SILVER)

Muskogee Turnpike (MU-MC-42), Wagoner County, OK
Contractor: Koss Construction Company
Owner: Oklahoma Turnpike Authority
Engineer: Craig & Keithline, Inc.

The construction of this project on Oklahoma’s The Muskogee Turnpike was a challenging project that required a major commitment from Koss Construction and their subcontractors. Plans called for the project to be completed in 370 days, however, days were added to the contract for additional work that was added to the contract after work was in progress.

Koss was tasked with removing the existing four lane highway, which was a difficult and time-consuming operation. The existing concrete was crushed and used as aggregate base in the roadbed. Crushing the existing pavement and reusing it as aggregate base proved to be both cost effective and environmentally responsible, as it reduced the amount of virgin aggregate by 100,000 tons.

Koss placed the 10.5 in. doweled, jointed concrete pavement over 12 in. of base material. In all, Koss crews placed 450,300 SY of concrete, for the construction of 36.32 lane miles of highway pavement. The project was divided into five phases of construction, with each phase divided into two parts.

The contractor’s control department continually testing the concrete to ensure a quality pavement was constructed. Koss QC Technicians used a type B pressure pot and a Super Air Meter to monitor air content and air spacing in the plastic concrete.

Koss project superintendents regularly talked with landowners and business owners to keep them informed before any traffic switches or lane closures were activated. Arrow boards were placed at the beginning of the project in both directions to benefit the traveling public.

The skill and hard work of the project team resulted in a quality reconstruct of this important toll highway.

Urban Arterials and Collectors (GOLD)

SH 45 Pueblo Boulevard (SH 96 to US 50), Pueblo, CO
Contractor: Castle Rock Construction Company
Owner/Engineer: Colorado DOT Region 2

State Highway 45 in Pueblo is a 3.5 mi. stretch of heavily-trafficked roadway that connect the town of Pueblo west of US 50 to the downtown area.

The existing asphalt roadway was severely damaged with transverse cracking and need complete replacement.

Several concrete contractors, including Castle Rock Construction, met with the Colorado DOT prior to the bid process to discuss constructability of concrete on SH 45. The existing median curb & gutter sections needed to remain in place for a portion of the project, and adjacent to the curb & gutter, the paving needed to be constructed with zero clearance for paver tracks. The industry worked through those concerns with the DOT, and the project was bid as a concrete paving job.

The project included 190,000 SY of asphalt planning and 170,000 SY of full-depth reclamations, as well as 38,000 CY of excavation and mitigation of unsuitable subgrade using aggregate base course with geogrid reinforcement.

The project also called for 160,000 SY of 8.25 in. doweled concrete pavement. Additional work included traffic signal reconfigurations; bridge jacking, rehab, and resurfacing; and rock check dams and drainage grading.

In addition to performing its own contract work, Castle Rock also provided direct oversight of 22 subcontractors while working with 14 contract modifications totaling approximately $1M.

The project had three main phases, with multiple smaller phases. Dividing the paving into these so many phases, along with the three bridges and gaps at all four intersections could have adversely impacted the pavement smoothness, but with proper planning, the effects were minimized.

Sustainability features included a 10% limestone replacement cement, which lowers the carbon footprint. The use of fly ash and a batch plant on site also significantly reduced the fuel and emissions that would have been associated with trucking the materials. The concrete and asphalt removed from the project were crushed and used as part of the full-depth repairs on the base.

In addition to the sustainability features of the project, the owner, taxpayers, and travelers have a long-lasting concrete roadway that will provide many years of service.

Urban Arterials and Collectors (SILVER)

159th Street Reconstruction (Nall Ave. to Mission Rd.), Overland Park, KS
Contractor: Miles Excavating, Inc.
Owner: City of Overland Park
Engineer: Affinis Corp.

This project is in one of the fastest-growing area in the county. Increased traffic volumes had elevated the need for this project, which expanded the 159th Street from a two-lane country toad to a four-lane, divided roadway.

The approximately $8.93 million project also included other improvements, including bike lanes; a new roundabout at the Mission Road intersection; curb and gutter; and storm sewers. The project also called for a reinforced concrete box culvert under the road; street lighting; sidewalks; and a multi-use trail.

Some of the challenges on this project were anticipated, including the need for significant grade changes that required large solid rock excavation; utility relocations before and during construction; and continuous access to a utility substation and three nearby schools.

One factor that was less predictable was the number and frequency of 100-year rain events during the project. The project team worked together to rise to the challenge and overcome each one without sacrificing safety or schedule along the way.

Miles Excavating placed the roadway on a base comprised of 8-in. fly ash compacted subgrade and 6-in. AB-3 modified aggregate.

Large areas of rock required over-excavating the rock to a 9-inch depth below the normal subgrade, then replacing it with a drainable base layer. The modified AB-3 remained above as the base. A layer of shale was discovered at the Mission Road intersection, so after consulting with a geotechnical engineer, the fly ash treated subgrade was replaced with an additional 6 inches of modified AB-3 for a total thickness of 12 inches.

During construction, the city and contractor focused attention on sustainability measures. For example, concrete was chosen for the roadway because of its inherent sustainability benefits, including reduced maintenance and reduction of waste, such as millings associated with asphalt overlays. The contractor and city also hired a water pollution control manager to oversee erosion control on the project. Because of the steep slopes and large areas affected by the project, this was instrumental in combatting the large rain events. Some of the measures used included hydraulic erosion control; erosion control mats; biodegradable logs; and temporary seeding. The project also included post-construction stormwater treatment devices and four hydrodynamic separators installed at low points on the project. These units will collect sediment and trash from the roadway in the future.

The contractor place 35,377 SY of concrete for a total of just over 5 lane miles of roadway. The contractor used both slip form paving (for the mainline portion) and fixed form paving, mainly at the roundabout and its approach legs, as well as at main intersections.

As a result of the exceptional team effort, this rapidly-growing area now has a arterial roadway that will serve the city for many years.

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