James Peterson Sons Readies US 51 for Summer Completion
Improvements to two-lane U.S. 51 in Oneida County, Wisconsin, make it safer, and James Peterson Sons Inc. is ahead of schedule for a summer completion.
"Now it has more gentle curves, and you can see farther down the road," says Michael Grage, Project Manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. "We have longer passing lanes."
On the current U.S. 51, built in 1938, 20 of the 30 vertical curves did not meet current standards and site lines, and the passing lanes were not long enough. Several auto accidents had occurred and the culverts at Rocky Run Creek were negatively affecting the native trout population in a Department of Natural Resources Fishery Area.
"Traffic was a lot different then, and it just did not meet current standards," says Grage. "There were a lot of short, sharp curved hills. Drivers did not see well. We had a lot of run off, the road crashes and deer crashes."
James Peterson Sons of Medford, Wisconsin, received the $10 million contract to straighten the road, extend the passing lanes to 2-miles long, replace a culvert pipe at McCormick Creek and build a new bridge over Rocky Run Creek. Federal transportation dollars funded about 80 percent of the project with the balance being state funds. The route is a north-south road that carries residents of the area and tourists, primarily in the summer months.
James Peterson Sons began in the 1930s, when James Peterson created a horse-powered homemade scraper to move dirt. The company has grown, expanding the scope of services, with the addition in 1999 of Buteyn Excavating and Grading Company, renamed to Buteyn-Peterson Construction, and in 2005 of Lakeland Enterprises, now known as the Utility Division of James Peterson Sons.
The company maintains a complete line of aggregate crushing, excavating and hauling equipment. The fleet is equipped with dust control technologies and GPS systems for accurate paving. The in-house 3-D computer modeling coupled with the GPS helps ensure a more precise job. Operated by the third, fourth and fifth generation of Petersons, the company employs more than 200 people and maintains the founder's work ethic and aims to exceed customer's expectations.
Work began in February 2016 clearing trees along the 5.5-mile project from Rocky Run Road to Oneida County Y. Construction began in March 2016, was suspended for the winter and will resume this spring. The contract calls for a November 2017 completion, but Larry Burkhart, Construction Manager for James Peterson Sons, expects the project will wrap up by July 1. The company completed 90 percent of the work last year.
"They came with the right amount of people and equipment," Grage says. "It went very well. They came with a good plan, and we worked well together."
James Peterson Sons divided the project into six phases. Two are left: the northbound passing lane at the north end of the job, and to surface the entire length of the project with asphalt.
Straightening the road required excavating in some spots and adding fill dirt in others. James Peterson Sons moved 557,000 cubic yards of dirt, 71,000 cubic yards of marsh excavation, placed 147,000 ton of base course, and has about 57,000 cubic yard of dirt to move and 20,000 ton of base course to place this year.
"The weather was very suitable for construction; we maintained 10-hour shifts, and it flowed right along," says Burkhart.
The contractor had to work around a fiber-optic line in phase one. The line had not been relocated as planned.
During construction, traffic was routed to one lane, with flagging operations and temporary traffic signals to help drivers through the construction zone. James Peterson Sons used GPS systems for the grading.
Deep, wet marshes along the project presented some challenges. Dirt from excavating the hills, necessary to straighten the road, was used to fill in the marshes after the muck was removed, Burkhart explains. James Peterson Sons used a Caterpillar 375 Backhoe with a 44-foot vertical reach and a 3-yard bucket to excavate the 28-foot deep marshes, eliminating the marshes, while dozers pushed clean fill down into the excavation to replace the marsh material. Marsh excavation proceeded steadily and efficiently and turned the previously-unstable areas into a solid base for road fills of up to 30 feet high.
"The contractor came in with specialized equipment for digging deep, and it worked very well," Grage says.
Adjusting for the Environment
The project has one bridge, which has been completed. Rocky Run Creek is a high quality waterway with a very high-quality riparian wetland habitat that is utilized by a diverse range of species. This waterway is also classified as a Class II trout water.
The existing 6-foot diameter culvert pipes under U.S. 51 restricted flow and led to a backwater condition upstream, creating a warmer creek environment that is less desirable for the trout. The bridge has a number of environmental advantages over a box culvert. First, it removed this flow restriction and restored a more natural stream flow condition. The new bridge also provides an opportunity for canoeing or kayaking the creek. The new bridge restored the natural flow of the creek. The bridge is a single-span pre-stressed concrete girder bridge. The span is 142-feet.
The bridge will allow for a natural stream bottom and natural migration of streambed sediments that will preserve the natural stream morphology, temperature and habitat both in the culvert and upstream. The reduced length and increased end area will also enhance the ability for fish, aquatic organism and wildlife passage by providing natural flow characteristics and reduce behavioral avoidance that can be associated with a long and dark box culvert.
"I am proud of how the road fits its surroundings, and that construction went well," Grage says. "We worked together and cooperated to build the project. It's a treat to work with somebody that want to works with us."