Sherwood Construction Co. Modernizes Norman Corridor With I-35/Lindsey Street Project
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) project to widen Interstate 35 and reconstruct the interchanges at State Highway 9 East and Lindsey Street in Norman - one of the largest single contracts awarded in ODOT's history - is progressing at a steady pace. The $71 million project began in March 2015 and is projected for completion in the spring of 2017.
The contract includes up to $2 million is possible incentives for early completion, and an aggressive work schedule has been maintained by project contractor Sherwood Construction Company of Tulsa. The Sherwood firm is active in many types of civil construction including earthwork and site prep, concrete and asphalt paving, civil and structural concrete, rock excavation, piling and sheet piling, sub-grade stabilization, and water/wastewater treatment facilities. The company has completed projects from general construction to construction management to design-build projects for public and private owners.
A Multi-Phased Project in a Heavily-Traveled Area
Lucas Reed, Resident Engineer at ODOT's Purcell Residency, is overseeing the construction project, which includes reconstructing and widening I-35 to six lanes and reconstructing two interchanges in Norman. He reports that approximately 155,000 vehicles travel I-35 and SH-9 East in this area daily, and that average daily traffic on Lindsey Street in the area is more than 24,000 vehicles (per 2013 numbers).
"One of the unique aspects of this project is that it combines two separate interchanges into a single construction contract," Reed comments. "The construction phases overlap significantly, due to the proximity of the two interchanges and ongoing interstate widening which is being performed at the same time as the interchanges.
"The first phases focused on reconstruction of the I-35/SH-9 East interchange. This included reconstruction of SH-9 east of I-35 to accommodate new on and off-ramps and construction of a large City of Norman drainage structure that was included in this project to help address flooding issues in the area. The new I-35/SH-9 East interchange was reconstructed with new, longer ramps and also provided new access to 28th Avenue/Ed Noble Parkway on the west side of I-35."
Reed explains that the project was phased so that work on SH-9 East would be mostly complete - and the roads fully open to traffic - so they could serve as the detour route during reconstruction of the I-35/Lindsey Street interchange. The Lindsey Street bridge and on/off ramps were closed this spring and removed.
The new Lindsey Street interchange is what is known as a Single-Point Urban Interchange or SPUI, which is designed to move large volumes of traffic very efficiently. The Highway 9 East interchange will consist of two loops and will provide a new connection from Highway 9 directly to Ed Noble Parkway. Sherwood is currently at work on the Lindsey Street SPUI - its completion and the widening of I-35 at Lindsey Street are the last major phases of the project, according to Reed.
He says that the SPUI was the chosen design for the new interchange for multiple reasons. "A SPUI can support large traffic volumes and multiple traffic movements safety and efficiently. Additionally, a SPUI minimizes the amount of right-of-way required, allowing the businesses along I-35 at Lindsey St. in Norman to remain in place.
"The I-35 interchange at Main Street in Norman, 1 mile north of Lindsey Street, was reconstructed as a SPUI in 2013 and functions very well. The work on this current project implements the recommendations in the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments plan, which called for reconstruction of the I-35 corridor in Norman with the SPUIs."
Work Underway on Lindsey Street
The construction of a large drainage structure in Norman is a part of that city's concurrent Lindsey Street Bond Project, which aims to alleviate traffic conditions and provide much needed improvements in terms of utilities, accessibility and beautification. This project's broad scope includes widening West Lindsey Street from three to five lanes, the construction of a new bridge over Imhoff Creek, underground utilities, storm water improvements, and aesthetic enhancements including decorative pavement, landscaping, and roadway lighting, among other components.
Relocation of city-owned and private utilities for the Lindsey Street project began in April 2015 and ended in early January. The projects ranged from pipeline rehabilitation to sewer replacement to installation of new waterline.
Currently, the portion of the roadway between 24th Avenue and Berry Road is a three-lane roadway - and the most congested corridor in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. This section of Lindsey Street has a traffic accident rate three times greater than the national average, and is also considered the top storm water problem in Norman.
The City of Norman is working to add artwork and landscaping to the new Lindsey Street bridge which incorporate elements of the Cherokee Gothic style of architecture common at the University of Oklahoma. Says Reed, "As with previous I-35 projects in Norman, the city has partnered with ODOT to fund landscaping and aesthetics for the new bridges. The Cherokee Gothic architectural style of the buildings on the University of Oklahoma campus is of course very important to the history of Norman and the State of Oklahoma."
West Lindsey Street in Norman is the gateway to the University of Oklahoma, but also serves an important function as one of the major commercial corridors, he points out. "We completely understand the inconvenience to the local business caused by the construction and ODOT has been working closely with businesses and the City of Norman to preserve street access to their properties and ensure adequate detour routes.
"Norman is the third largest city in Oklahoma, part of the Oklahoma City metro area and home to several large employers and the University of Oklahoma, so there is a lot of commuter traffic in addition to through traffic and commercial truck traffic. The college brings in people from across the state and the region, especially for athletic events, so ODOT has to plan for heavy nighttime and weekend traffic in addition to the regular work week rush hours."
Two lanes of northbound and southbound I-35 have remained open to traffic in each direction during construction, as well as most on- and off-ramps; however, some nighttime lane and ramp closures have been necessary. Information on suggested detour routes has been provided, and daily traffic advisories made available online.
As to the challenges encountered on both parts of this major project, Reed comments, "We've worked to keep two lanes open, but safety is always the number one priority, so rolling roadblocks are used when the contractor is doing nighttime bridge work that requires hanging of beams over the lanes of I-35.
"Closing the Lindsey St. interchange for several months was one of the major challenges of this project, one that we knew would inconvenience drivers and business. ODOT has also worked closely with the City of Norman to communicate this major change to the public in advance, preserve access to businesses and ensure adequate detour routes.
"The infrastructure at I-35 and Lindsey Street was very outdated and in need of replacement. When the ODOT and City of Norman projects are complete, this will be a very modern corridor that will improve the area by supporting present and future traffic and continued growth."