Barriere Construction Nears Completion on Louisiana French Branch Project
Reconstructing an aging interstate junction, Barriere Construction of Metairie, Louisiana, has met the challenge of keeping the hurricane evacuation route open while replacing the roadways.
"The scope of this project is to remove and replace the 50-plus year old concrete pavement with new asphalt pavement to increase the ride ability and safety for the traveling public," says Seth deArmas, Project Engineer with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). "This interchange will be much smoother and safer for the 95,000 motorist that travel through this corridor each day."
The Louisiana DOTD awarded the $38 million, 360-day project to Barriere in January 2015 and work started in May 2015.
"It's a big interchange improvement project," says Jason Latiolais, French Branch Project Manager for Barriere Construction and Group Manager of Barriere's Northshore Asphalt Group in Franklinton, Louisiana. "It's going really well considering the many challenges and time restrictions."
The project is 95 percent complete, ahead of schedule and on budget, agreed deArmas. The state hired Volkert of Mobile, Alabama, as the engineering and inspection consultant.
"All parties involved including the owner; DOTD; the engineering and inspection consultant, Volkert; and the construction contractor, Barriere, have created a strong and honest working relationship during the last year of construction," deArmas says.
Barriere held partnering meetings with Volkert, DOTD, and many of Barriere's subcontractors before starting on the job and quarterly to establish good relationships among all team members, Latiolais says.
"We worked well with the DOTD partners and Volkert, because without them, we could not have gotten where we are," Latiolais says. "They were there with us 24 hours a day, anytime we needed an answer."
The scope includes reconstructing Interstate 10 from French Branch Bridge to West Pearl River Bridge; Interstate 12 from Interstate 59 to I-10; and I-59 at the merge with I-10 north to the Brownswitch Road overpass. All ramps also are being reconstructed.
"The most interesting and challenging thing about the project is its location," deArmas reports. "This is the only interstate junction where three major interstates come together in the state, and one of the few in the country.
The job was bid on an A (cost) plus B (days to finish) plus C (bonus for an early finish) basis. Barriere's nearest competitor bid the job at 675 days. Each day represents $15,000. If late, Barriere pays the state $15,000 per day, and if early, the state pays the contractor $15,000 per day.
"We said we could build it in half the time anyone else could do it," Latiolais reports. "Currently, we are ahead of schedule to finish before the 360 days allotted in the contract."
DOTD considered that an important aspect of the project, deArmas says, because local commuters and interstate traffic would be affected for a shorter time frame.
The existing road had a concrete surface, which Barriere removed and recycled through Pontchartrain Materials Corporation, of New Orleans, a local supplier who turned it into an aggregate base material.
"The concrete had to all be removed," Latiolais explains. "It was old, 45 to 50 years old, and was in very bad condition."
Barriere used two Impactor 3000 machines from Impactor Roller Technology in Plattsbouth, Nebraska, to break up the concrete, which Latiolais credits with speeding up the concrete removal.
Barriere also worked closely with Louisiana Cat in New Orleans.
"We are a partner with Louisiana Cat," Latiolais says. "When we bid, we knew we would need their support. They went all in with us and supplied mechanics 24 hours a day."
Bidders had the option of removing the concrete and replacing it with new concrete or asphalt. Barriere chose to go full-depth asphalt. The company operates two asphalt plants, each about an hour away from the French Branch job site.
"Now that the roadway is asphalt, in 15 to 20 years whenever it needs to be resurfaced, it will go faster," Latiolais says. "You can mill it and put back asphalt in a month or so of nights, compared to a year to dig out concrete and replace it with concrete."
The new asphalt roadway will be overlaid with a 3/4-inch Open Graded Friction Course to increase skid friction and reduce overspray during a rain event.
"The most challenging aspect of the project was reconstructing sections of the roadway that were limited by horizontal clearances, under bridges with pier protectors, or confined areas of construction," deArmas says. "This required multiple phases of construction which had to be done during the weekends around the clock to least impact interstate commerce and daily commuters, but it adversely effected vacation goers, which experienced severe summer month interstate congestion on I-12 and I-10."
The state provided 27 weekends to complete the 10 laterally confined areas, each being 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet long. Barrier completed that work in 10 weekends.
"We threw everything we had at it," Latiolais says. "Ninety percent of the job was self-performed."
This project also had tight lane closure restrictions during the day, which required the majority of the work to be completed at night, deArmas said. Many of the closures had different time restrictions. Penalties for not finishing on time were $15,000 per hour with no cap.
"I'm proud of the amount of time the contractor was able to complete this massive undertaking," deArmas says. "Barriere Construction utilized all company resources to complete the project within the contracted time frame. This included working day and night for weeks at a time with up to 10 construction crews working concurrently to meet the project completion date."
Latiolais anticipates a May 2016 finish.
"I'm proud we're finishing early and when we said we would," Latiolais says. "Some people were skeptical at first we could do it, but we put a good plan in place and executed the plan."
The French Branch project is the largest single project Barriere has tackled. The logistics and phasing made it complicated, Latiolais explained.
"Geographically, it was a good fit for us and the type of work was as well, says Peter Wilson, President and CEO of Barriere. "It was certainly a big challenge. We had to muscle up for the project. It took a lot of our resources."
Barriere began operations in 1949 and remains a family-owned industrial, highway and civil construction, asphalt and concrete paving company. About 500 people work for Barriere. Members of the fourth generation have joined the firm, and other early employees have urged their kin to join the company.
"We have a lot of families that have worked here for two and three generations, and that has been a big part of our success," Wilson says.
The company works in the public and private market, including the petrochemical industry, providing drainage and structural concrete work. Barriere operates facilities in St. Charles Parish and Washington Parish and serves a 20-parish area. The company operates asphalt plants and plans to open a new asphalt plant in the Baton Rouge area this spring.
"We are green fielding in that area," Wilson says. "We are bullish on the Baton Rouge market. We see that as a large growth area in the state."