Beaver Excavating Reconstructs 60-Year-Old I-75 Near Lima, Ohio
Not only did the $156.2 million Interstate 75 reconstruction project in Allen County, Ohio, replace 9.38 miles of deteriorating pavement and bridges originally constructed in the 1950s, but the project led the way for a new branding initiative, incorporating the community's slogan of "Real American Strength" on bridges and noise walls.
The project was also the first major interstate reconstruction in the mostly rural District 1 of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). "We've had minor reconstructions and repairs on interstate elsewhere, but this was the first time we went in and removed the pavement and subbase and rebuilt it from the ground up through Lima," said Kirk Slusher, P.E., Deputy Director for District 1. "It was the first time the public had to deal with these kinds of traffic changes."
Weekly emails and press releases kept travelers updated on the latest detours and progress in the project. After almost four years of traffic shifts that maintained two lanes in each direction, ODOT and its contractor, Beaver Excavating Company of Canton, Ohio, will finish the last of three sections this fall.
Three in One
ODOT decided to stick with four lanes but provide for additional capacity in the future. They divided the work into three contracts. The first, started in 2012 and completed in spring 2014 by Eagle Bridge Co. of Sidney, Ohio, replaced one overhead and one interchange. "We decided to do those first to essentially provide some relief," Slusher said. "They were the worst structures as far as bridge condition rating, and having those structures completed gave traffic a way to cross I-75 while we built the other structures."
ODOT split the rest of the project into two parts. Beaver Excavating submitted the low bid for both contracts and was awarded the work. The 3-mile-long northern section, dubbed Project 2, started in March 2013 and finished a year ahead of the original schedule on November 1, 2014, thanks to manpower and overtime. "We offered a $1.5 million, no-excuse incentive if the contractor finished by that date," Slusher said.
With a concrete barrier running down the middle, Project 2 presented a unique challenge in allowing for future capacity. "What we ended up doing was kind of reverse logic," Slusher said. "Normally when you add capacity, you fill in the median. Here, we took out the concrete barrier and added a 50-foot grass median so in the future we can build additional lanes there."
That strategy made construction easier. "We built the new lanes on the outside [of the existing travel lanes] while maintaining traffic on the inside," Slusher said.
Since the interstate in Project 3, which stretches 5 1/2 miles to the south, already contained a grass median, the new lanes stayed in the same alignment as the old, except in two spots where ODOT lessened the degree of curvature. Work on Project 3 began in April 2014 and will finish in October.
Concrete vs. Asphalt in Tight Spaces
ODOT specified both Projects 2 and 3 as alternative bids, allowing contractors to use asphalt or concrete pavement. All 9 miles of pavement sit on a 14-inch cement stabilized subbase and 6 inches of 304 aggregate base.
In Project 2, Beaver Excavating chose 14-inch concrete pavement. "It created some challenges in trying to maintain traffic while allowing enough room to get the paver where it needed to be," said Luke Johansen, Construction Project Engineer for ODOT's District 1.
For Project 3, Beaver Excavating switched to 15.75-inch asphalt pavement. "When we bid Project 3, some of the dynamics of the cost between concrete and asphalt had changed, but their experiences in Project 2 also led them to the asphalt product," Slusher said. "Paving with concrete just doesn't give you a whole lot of flexibility, especially when you're dealing with maintenance of traffic (MOT) items."
Space was at a premium. "Average traffic in that area is 36,000 vehicles per day, with 34 percent commercial trucks," said Scott Mullins, P.E., District 1 Area Engineer. "Tight lanes and the commercial vehicles out there compounded the issue."
Winters proved especially challenging. "Because we were paving just outside of the existing lanes, we had concrete barrier on both sides," Slusher explained. "It was challenging to plow in those areas and find a place to store the snow."
To minimize issues this winter and allow more space, "We accelerated some of the items of work and finished 80 percent of the area that was scheduled to have contraflow MOT," Mullins said. "That allowed us to remove the concrete barrier in those areas and put traffic in its final pattern."
Real American Strength
The I-75 reconstruction project served as a launching pad for the new branding initiative developed by the City of Lima and Allen County. ODOT worked with city officials, county commissioners, economic development leaders, and a branding consultant. "We came up with the theme of "˜Real American Strength' based on the hard-working nature of the local community, with a strong manufacturing base but also an eye looking forward for technology," Slusher said.
The new logo, which shows gears in motion, is spaced every 500 feet on Lima's new interstate noise walls. Bridges at the north and south entrances to the Lima region carry the words "Lima, Allen County" on the parapet above lanes, with the "Real American Strength" slogan on the wing wall. In addition, "Each of the structures has a decorative, raised pilaster at the end and we placed the logo on those," Slusher said.
"The locals use the logo in just about everything they do, from their water tower to website development and stationery," he added. The interstate serves as the first welcome to the Lima, Allen County region.
Partnering to Save Money
Because of the size of the project, ODOT worked with Beaver Excavating in a formal partnering capacity. They held regular team meetings and formed a three-person dispute resolution board composed of independent consultants who met on a quarterly basis to help solve issues. With the enhanced communication, the team completed Project 2 without any claims from the district.
ODOT also worked with Beaver Excavating on value engineering proposals to minimize costs. On Project 2, ODOT accepted four proposals that saved a total of $1 million, split between ODOT and the contractor.
First, Beaver Excavating redesigned two mainline bridges to switch from two-span to single-span. "On one bridge, they went from a steel-beam structure to a concrete beam," Johansen said. "The other bridge was supposed to be a slab deck and they changed that to a concrete beam as well. They shortened the abutments and used a cast-in-place wall that goes straight vertical so they could shorten that span."
In addition, "They redesigned some areas from MSE walls to a reinforced slope with geogrid material," he said.
Project 3 incorporated five value engineering proposals totaling $600,000. On two bridge structures, "There was a pretty major change that allowed fewer piles using a thicker-diameter pile," Johansen said.
Another proposal involved a culvert running under I-75 and several ramps. "The original plan had us doing that work in phases, which accounted for a lot of MOT asphalt and a lot of finagling with the ramps," Johansen explained. "Beaver Excavating proposed boring the 42-inch pipe underneath the entire area. That saved about $50,000, which wasn't a huge amount but it was a huge deal to the MOT. It saved a lot of time and effort on the contractor's part and avoided some traffic switches."
The fourth value engineering proposal substituted a different type of geogrid and the last one replaced MSE walls with a reinforced slope.
With those efficiencies, Project 3 will finish this fall, giving Allen County travelers enhanced safety and improved capacity on the updated I-75.