All around the city of Omaha, the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) has highway construction projects under way to relieve congestion and maintain the infrastructure. Additionally, the department’s first design-build project is planned for the metro area.
“We’ve got a good year going,” says Timothy Weander, District 2 Engineer for NDOT. “We have some pavement age and some expansion due to growth.”
Omaha and Douglas County are experiencing population growth. The metropolitan area is expected to reach more than 1 million people by 2023, according to U.S. Census Bureau data reported in the Omaha World-Herald.
Many of the current projects were funded with money from the state’s Build Nebraska Act, passed in 2011. It created a quarter-cent sales tax to fund road projects, with 85 percent of the funds going to the Nebraska DOT. That results in about $60 million per year for 20 years, from 2013 to 2033, or $1.2 billion over the life of the program.
NDOT is adding lanes on Interstate 80 from 13th Street to Interstate 480. Across the state line, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Weander explains, the Iowa DOT is working on an expansion of the interstate system through that city. This Nebraska work includes two projects.
The first 1-mile-long project will add a lane in each direction from the 13th Street interchange on I-80 to 24th Street and new ramps. Work began in 2017. This is the second year of the three-year project, with completion expected in 2019. Hawkins Construction Co. of Omaha received the $19 million contract.
“It has high traffic volume, so we are trying to do this while maintaining traffic,” says Weander.
Hawkins also received the $7 million contract for Interstate 480 at 24th Street, which includes resurfacing, bridge repair and adding a lane in each direction. Work should wrap up by Thanksgiving of this year. During a 15-day period this summer, traffic on I-80 in this section was reduced to one lane in the westbound direction, just prior to the NCAA College World Series.
“The contractor completed it ahead of schedule, which was important,” Weander reports.
Nebraska’s First Design-Build Highway Project
NDOT received approval from the Nebraska legislature to use the design-build method in 2016 and has since engaged the public and evaluated projects to find a project that would benefit from the method.
“It’s a rising procurement method and an additional tool in our toolbox we did not have the authority to do before,” says Kyle Keller, Design-Build Engineer for the NDOT. “We’ve wanted to use it for a long period of time.”
The 18.5-mile U.S. 275 from Scribner to West Point rose to the top of the priority list of projects to complete. Design-build procurement was applied, so the department could accelerate delivery of the job, which will increase capacity on the stretch by widening the expressway from two lanes to four lanes. The project may include rehabilitation or replacement of bridges as needed, with new structures on the two additional lanes. Funding will come from the Transportation Innovation Act. The department plans to keep two lanes open, while construction takes place on the two new lanes.
“Our goal would be to maintain two lanes of traffic through the life of the project,” Keller says.
NDOT is using a two-phase procurement, a request for qualifications followed by a request for proposals. The department has short-listed three teams:
Then the three teams will submit a proposal, which includes a bid or contract price. Eventually, NDOT would like to four-lane the rest of the highway to Norfolk.
Other Projects in the Omaha Area
Several other NDOT projects are under way or about to start.
OMNI Engineering of Ankeny, Iowa, is working on the approximately $6 million asphalt overlay on N-31 at the I-80 interchange and south to Schramm Park, and a bridge rehab at the Gretna Outlet Mall.
“We’re rebuilding some medians at the interchange, doing some ramp repairs and an asphalt overlay,” Weander says. “The concrete is showing some ASR, so we are covering the concrete. And we are widening from a 24-foot top to a 28-foot top, which gives us a little [shoulder] for the drivers.”
ASR refers to alkali–silica reaction, which can result in cracking and structural problems if not corrected, according to the Federal Highway Administration. It is caused by a reaction between the concrete pour solution and certain silica minerals in the aggregates. OMNI will repair the concrete pavement before paving over it with asphalt.
The westbound I-80/I-680 collector-distributor road, providing access to Q Street and L Street, also has developed ASR damage. Constructors received the approximately $8 million contract to repair and resurface the 3.75-mile collector-distributor road. In addition, the company is adding a concrete barrier between the collector-distributor road and I-80.
“It will give us added safety between those two roadways, if we get traffic backups,” Weander says.
At the Ralston Viaduct, Hawkins Construction will rebuild a four-lane older bridge on N-85/84th Street for $7 million. This is the second year of the 2.5-year project. The northbound lanes are finished and improvements are being made to the southbound lanes, while traffic shifted to the new northbound lanes. Work, including replacing approaches and grade beams and adding a raised median, is expected to finish this fall.
The Waterloo Viaduct on U.S. 275 will receive new pavement, rehabilitation of the bridges, replacement of the approaches, and a new median barrier on the Fremont to Omaha Freeway system. JMN Construction received the $7 million contract.
“The viaduct is coming of age,” Weander says. “It had a raised island between the lanes, and we are removing that and putting in a concrete barrier between the two different directions of travel, which will eliminate head-on crashes.”
JMN will pave with new concrete, and a high-friction course atop the concrete will be added next year. It is an epoxy product with aggregate on top, so tires will not slip in winter or rain conditions.
“It will make it a safer area,” Weander says.
On the Columbus to Omaha highway system, Hawkins Construction received a $42 million contract to build a new, 10.2-mile, four-lane expressway on U.S. 30 from Rogers to North Bend. Work will start this fall. Most of the work is on a new alignment. The project is expected to be complete in the fall of 2020.
In the next couple of years, NDOT will build a section between North Bend and Freemont, on new alignment, completing the 60-mile expressway between Columbus and Omaha.
“It will be a great benefit to the citizens of the state and travelers,” Weander says. “It’s good to get these needs taken care of. We are doing the best we can to put the tax dollars to work to do expansions that are needed and maintain the system.”
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