US 31 Improvements Add Capacity in Holland
When Michigan Paving and Materials Co. completes the reconstruction of U.S. 31 in Holland, Michigan, travelers will enjoy smooth sailing on three lanes of traffic in each direction from Quincy Street to Lakewood Boulevard.
"This is a heavy tourist and commuter route, and the widening will help with congestion," says Gregg Zack, Project Manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). "We added capacity."
Michigan Paving and Materials based in Canton, Michigan, received the $23.6 million contract to complete the work from March to November of this year. The company, founded more than 50 years ago, operates six asphalt plants. In addition to public projects, the company paves commercial and industrial facilities in central and western Michigan.
Work began on U.S. 31 with updating the traffic signals, prior to the annual Tulip Time Festival in May. The scope of work includes building an additional through lane in each direction and reconstructing approximate 3 miles from Lakewood Boulevard to Quincy Street; reconstructing without widening another mile of U.S. 31 south of Lakewood to 8th Street; making drainage improvements; and completing bridge repairs at Lakewood Boulevard, the CSX Railroad, Macatawa River and Interstate 196 Business Route (Chicago Drive). Zack said the project should finish by the end of this month.
"There has been a lot of work done in a very short time," says Jason VanPatten, Area Manager for Michigan Paving and Materials in Canton, Michigan. "We've worked six days a week, and we have night work out there, too."
Crews removed the original concrete on the project, crushed it onsite and recycled it for the gravel aggregate base in the new road, which is being paved with hot mix asphalt. "The biggest challenge going in is the amount of traffic, combined with a fast-paced schedule," says VanPatten.
Maintaining traffic flow was a prime priority on the U.S. 31 project. Traffic was diverted to the northbound lanes while southbound construction took place and vice versa. A median separated the traffic from the workers. "We have maintained traffic very well and have had few complaints," VanPatten says.
Michigan Paving kept the five main intersections open while work progressed on the main road and then reconstructed the heavily traveled intersections during Monday to Thursday windows.
"We come up to the intersections, we skip over them and then we have four-day windows to tear out the existing material, install new drainage structures and pipe, put new curb and cutter in, a new aggregate base and two lifts of asphalt in the intersection," VanPatten explains. "We have 10 total intersections."
That included northbound and southbound lanes. VanPatten explains it was the first time the company has handled intersections in this way, but that it has gone well. To keep traffic moving, MDOT did not allow any left turns to side streets or any left turns from the side streets to U.S. 31. Drivers had to make multiple rights or find another route.
"That really helped minimize the slowdowns on the project," Zack says. "Not allowing left turns at any intersections was a first for our office, and it made a huge difference."
Final paving will require closing the intersections for short durations. MDOT met with city officials, first responders and businesses along the route and kept interested citizens informed of any traffic shifts, closed intersections or other changes. "The communication made for a very smooth project," Zack says.
Paving and Reconstructing
Michigan Paving has used 121,000 tons of hot mix asphalt on the U.S. 31 project. Hot mix combines about 95 percent stone, sand, recycle and gravel bound together with about 5 percent asphalt cement, a petroleum product that acts like glue.
Asphalt saves money on construction and road maintenance. It also gives drivers a smooth, quiet ride, according to the Asphalt Paving Association of Michigan in Okemos.
The company is echelon paving all courses. On the base and leveling courses, the company ran two pavers side by side and on the top course has paved with three paving machines running in tandem. "The longitudinal joints are hot joints, so it should give you a longer lasting joint that won't separate," Zack says.
Each paver has had its own mix transfer device, which ensures a more uniform mix. Several hot mix asphalt trucks dump into the material transfer machines. Those machines remix the asphalt and then deposit in the paving machine. "A mix transfer device gives you a better mat behind the paver," Zack explains.
Michigan Paving is pulling different hot mix asphalt mixes from two different plants on the same day. One produces a shoulder mix and the other the mainline mix. The company color-coded the trucks with magnets on the back to show which plant the material came from. That helped keep the crews on the job aware of which plant the hot mix asphalt was coming from and which paver the truck needed to dump its material into.
"We did not want to run two separate mixes out of the same plant," Van Patten says. "Each plant was running a different mix."
Each of the bridges required different types of rehabilitation, including hydro demolition of bridge decks and pouring new decks.
"That created a challenge, because we had to do the bridges part-width to allow traffic to get through while working on the bridges," VanPatten says.
The job is on time and within budget. "It has been a very smooth project," Zack concludes. "We've been lucky. It has gone well."
Photos courtesy of the Michigan Department of Transportation