Safety Upgrades to I-35/Pleasant Valley Interchange Increase Capacity
Improvements to the Interstate-35/Pleasant Valley interchange aim to improve safety and capacity in one of Missouri's fastest growing counties.
"This is near one of Ford's largest plants," says K. Mark Sommerhauser, Project Manager at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). "Ford has added a significant number of jobs, and the company has strict requirements for just-in-time deliveries."
The Ford Motor Co. builds its F-150 trucks at a plant about a quarter-mile from the interchange. Additionally, Ford opened a stamping plant to form the body for its commercial vehicle transit van at a nearby site. Suppliers must locate within a certain radius to provide those quick delivery times.
"The amount of commercial truck traffic was increasing," Sommerhauser says.
A Partnership of Multiple Entities
The project received cost-share funding, since it was bringing additional manufacturing jobs to the area. MoDOT provided the lion's share of the funding for the $25.59 million project, with the city of Liberty contributing $5 million and the city of Pleasant Valley $100,000. The city of Liberty also is extending South Liberty Parkway, one of the roads that connect to I-35 at this interchange, which will add to the traffic counts as the currently vacant land is developed.
"It was a good partnership with all of those entities," Sommerhauser says. "MoDOT took the lead and identified that the Ford expansion was significant."
While each of the entities had differing priorities, Sommerhauser reports, everyone worked well together to come up with solutions that worked for everyone. George Butler Associates (GBA) of Lenexa, Kansas, designed the interchange and the bridges. The team considered about 15 different designs, discussing options before settling on this one. The project required minimal right-of-way acquisition, all negotiated and none requiring homes.
"I think everyone is pleased with the end project and the process," Sommerhauser says.
Another factor in the reconstruction was that the existing interchange, built in the 1960s, had three of the four access and egress ramps to the interstate from the left lane, which had led to a higher accident rate than other locations along the four-lane interstate.
"It's not ideal, because you are exiting and entering from the high-speed lanes" says Sommerhauser. "That is a distinct disadvantage for merging and weaving."
Choosing the Right Contractor
Miles Excavating of Basehor, Kansas, began work in spring 2015.The company is a family-owned business, founded in 1983, by one man with a backhoe and a commitment to excellence. Owner and founder Steve Miles, a former rodeo competitor, sold his quarter horse to buy his first backhoe.
The company has built many high-profile projects in the Kansas City area. As it has grown to tackle other heavy highway construction, sewer installations, and earthwork and grading work, the company continues to strive to maintain that philosophy of quality work. Miles remains actively involved in day-to-day operations, providing estimates, meeting with superintendents, overseeing jobsites and working in the trenches. Miles Excavating employs about 160 people.
The company maintains a large fleet of heavy machinery and trucks, including Komatsu backhoes and excavators; GOMACO concrete pavers; and Caterpillar scrapers, dozers, and haul trucks.
Rebuilding the Interchange
The project is scheduled to finish this summer, with seeding and clean up. It had seven primary phases with multiple subphases.
"Even with setbacks and obstacles out of our control, Miles will be able to deliver this project to the state on time," says Shawn Berkey, Project Manager for Miles Excavating. Crews at times worked seven days a week and many nights paving.
On I-35, continuous ramp lanes at the north and south ends of the project have been constructed. The southbound off ramp goes under I-35.
"We came up with the solution to curve it back under the interstate to allow traffic to move smoothly," Sommerhauser says. "It is one of the more unique design aspects."
Crews built up I-35 by about 10 feet of fill dirt in the then 400-foot-wide median and excavated about 10 feet under the interstate, placing significant temporary shoring.
"On ramp four we built up shoring to hold up the old exit ramp, because there was a 20-foot cut there and about 14-foot of roadway," Berkey says. "We had to temporarily shore it for about 12 months while we brought all of the other phases together."
The work included building MSE walls and new 60-foot-long precast concrete Nebraska girder bridges, again in the median, switched traffic and demolished the old structures. At Pleasant Valley Road, crews built the bridges over the road using precast concrete Nebraska girders. The spans are 45 feet long, resting on three bents. Crews used GPS for the layout but ran string for the pavers.
"That way we had more control to give MoDOT a better product, a little old school," Berkey says.
Miles Excavating paved all of the temporary bypasses and ramps and permanent roads and bridges with concrete. The contractor used the demolished concrete from the old roadway when constructing the new roadway.
"Concrete is what we do for a living," Berkey says. "It was a quicker turn around for us."
To avoid hauling in large amounts of dirt and then wasting it at the end, crews took dirt from different sections of the project to build up the interstate for the southbound exit ramp.
"They did a really good job of getting every ounce of dirt they could from the early phases," Sommerhauser reports.
Through the entire process, Miles Excavating maintained two lanes of traffic in each direction during morning and evening rush hours. About 40,000 vehicles pass through that section of highway daily. A few weekend overnight closures were required for placing the girders and demolishing the old bridges.
"The contractor did very well in maintaining the two lanes," Sommerhauser says. "It was done in phases."
Once complete, the project is expected to reduce travel times. "It's gone well," Sommerhauser concludes. "We're excited about how it will operate."