Wildcat Construction Takes on Double US 54 Projects to Reduce Congestion in Wichita
Work is progressing on two major projects along Kellogg, U.S. 54, the busiest freeway in eastern Wichita, Kansas. The end-to-end projects are designed to reduce congestion, enhance safety, and create a more comfortable driving experience.
"The project improves the traffic flow at the city's busiest intersections and increases capacity on a heavily traveled corridor in East Wichita," says Jeri Biehler, Spokesperson for the Kansas Turnpike Authority.
The city of Wichita originally planned to rebuild the intersection of Kellogg and Webb in January 2014, but the bids came in more than $20 million higher than engineers' estimates. So the project stalled as the city looked to simplify the design.
Then the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA), the Kansas Department of Transportation and the city of Wichita came together to build the project with a few changes.
"The partnership allowed the project to move forward and increased business efficiencies," says Biehler, who praised the cooperation among the parties.
"We got a better product for the public and we were able to save money," adds Mike Armour, Special Projects Engineer with the city.
Funding the Projects
The total cost of the East Kellogg corridor improvements, including design, right-of-way, utility relocations, construction and construction engineering is anticipated to exceed $300 million. T-Works, a 10-year, $8 billion KDOT program, is providing $152.5 million. KTA and KDOT will invest $24 million on the toll road interchange and ramps. The city will cover the remaining costs.
Original plans for the Webb interchange called for full-directional access from Kellogg to the turnpike, near Webb Road. However, the design was challenging due to the close proximity of Webb and the turnpike's Exit 50. After the bid came in higher than the estimate, KDOT, KTA and the city of Wichita discussed redesign options. They decided to construct new ramps as part of the Greenwich project to accommodate the direct connections between the turnpike and Kellogg for the most heavily used movements. Exit 50 near Webb could then serve as a local connection, eliminating the need for the more complicated design.
The city is managing the Kellogg and Webb project, where travelers will use a frontage road to access the turnpike. Farther east, the Kellogg and Greenwich project, managed by KTA, includes new connects to and from the turnpike. All of the roadway will be paved with non-reinforced dowel jointed concrete.
KTA also is providing communication support for both projects, with help from a local strategic communications firm in Wichita, keeping travelers and businesses along the route informed.
Wildcat Construction of Wichita serves as the prime contractor on both projects, which are near an airport, requiring special permitting for crane placement, structures and signage, says Glen Scott, KTA Project Engineer. Work is progressing through the winter.
"All of the parties have worked well together to make sure both projects are as successful as can be," says Roger McClellan, President of Wildcat Construction.
The Webb Portion
Wildcat bid $79.1 million for the Webb project, without access to the Turnpike. The contract includes utility relocations, allowing Wildcat to manage the necessary relocations of conflicting utilities. The project involves improving Kellogg to a six-lane freeway, with a diamond interchange at Webb Road. WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, headquartered in New York, designed the project.
"It is the busiest intersection in Wichita, with 65,000-plus vehicles per day," Armour says.
Work began in August 2015 and the southern frontage road is complete and carrying the Kellogg eastbound traffic. When crews finish the northern frontage road, under construction now, Kellogg westbound traffic will switch to it, and crews can start working on the mainline, which will go about 23 feet under Webb Road. Armour says the city decided to take Kellogg under Webb, because drainage could flow by gravity, eliminating the need for pump stations. Both the frontage roads are at grade and allow access to adjacent businesses along Kellogg.
"There will be soldier piles and a vertical cut for the mainline," says Alan Farrington, Vice President of Wildcat. The vertical cut will be about 25 feet.
There will be 70,000 square feet of soldier piles, built from the top down. Crews will pre-drill a soldier pile and excavate in front of the soldier piles. At various levels, tiebacks are tied into the earth behind, then the lagging is placed. The project also has 30,000 square feet of MSE retaining walls. Custom-made artistic wall designs were created for the surface of the soldier-pile and MSE walls.
The bridge on Webb will be wider than it is long. It is a single span from one retaining wall to another, 130-foot-long and 200 feet wide, carrying 10 lanes and two U-turn lanes.
The bridge will be "a trapezoidal steel box girder bridge with the outer-most girders being slightly curved," Armour said. "The city has used steel box-girder bridges on many of the Kellogg interchanges over the years."
The team completed a milestone on the project in December, with the demolition of the KTA bridge over Kellogg. The bridge was built in the 1960s when this part of Wichita was rural. Kellogg had to be completely shut down, so work was scheduled for a weekend.
Subcontractor Pearson Construction of Wichita began the demolition on Friday night and completed the work by Saturday afternoon rather than the allowable Monday morning, hours ahead of schedule. The team conducted extensive pre-planning, including obtaining all permits. Crews worked from both sides of the bridge, tearing it down with excavators. There was no blasting. The road under the bridge needed to remain functional and open again to traffic immediately after reopening, so Pearson pushed dirt onto the road to protect it from any harm and then cleaned it up and opened the road.
"They brought out an army of equipment and personnel and got it done in short order," McClellan says.
The Greenwich Portion
After the changes to the Webb project, the design scope of the Greenwich project was expanded to include new ramp connections between the turnpike and Kellogg. The Greenwich portion entails one mile of reconstruction on Kellogg from just west of Greenwich Road to 127th Street East. Wildcat also won the bid for this project with a bid of $90.9 million. Work began in fall 2016, with Wildcat responsible for major utility relocations. Crews are currently completing dirt work and water line and sewer relocations
The Greenwich section has seven bridges and four new ramps. Kellogg will go over Greenwich, on twin bridges spanning 10 lanes on Greenwich Road. KTA decided on steel welded box girder spans, a trapezoid with a smaller dimension on the lower side and wider dimension on the top side, Scott explains.
Two other bridges are prestressed concrete I-beams. The span over Zelta has five lanes and is 156 feet long. The bridges over the turnpike also will have prestressed concrete girders, that span five lanes and have 139-foot and 149-foot spans. The South frontage road crossing the turnpike will have welded steel plate I-beam girders and will span 196 feet.
Farrington explains that much of the decision to go over or under was related to the grade and ground conditions. These bridges also will have artistic features on the retaining walls. Work is expected to start on the bridges sometime this year.
Wildcat plans to use GPS on its equipment for the final grading. The Webb project is scheduled for completion in 2019 and the Greenwich project is scheduled for completion in 2021. The projects are on budget and slightly ahead of schedule.
"It's obvious that all of the parties involved want this to be a success," Farrington said. "It's encouraging to be on a project where everyone wants a successful outcome."