Building A Better Borman/I-65 Interchange

Story by Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

In northern Indiana, contractors are rapidly constructing the first two of three phases in the final segment of the multiyear Borman Expressway (Interstates 80/94) reconstruction project by modifying the I-80/94 interchange with I-65. The challenging, $187-million interchange project includes building new ramps and bridges, upgrading existing ramps, rehabilitating bridges in the area, adding travel and connector lanes, and replacing pavement.

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), this fully funded Major Moves job consists of three contracts over a three-year period that began in spring 2007. The standard-build contracts cover interchange modifications near Gary, stretching from east of Georgia Street to east of Clay Street and from the 35th Avenue bridge to the Central Avenue/CSX mainline bridge along I-65.

The interchange modification project follows in the footsteps of the 13-mile reconstruction of the Borman Expressway between the Indiana-Illinois state line and I-65. The expressway, reconstructed under a series of design-build contracts during 2004-2006, provided a new fourth through lane in each direction, and added new interchange ramps, new sound barrier walls, new lighting systems, and new drainage facilities.

Modification of the I-80/94-I-65 interchange is designed to reduce congestion and increase safety and mobility for motorists. Carrying approximately 160,000 vehicles per day (with a high percentage of truck traffic), the Borman Expressway is one of the state's busiest highways, and its interchange with I-65 serves as a critical transportation link — especially for motorists traveling to and from Chicago.

When completed in 2009, the newly reconstructed interchange is expected to handle traffic volumes for 20 years. "The big thing with this project is making the heavily traveled ramps between I-65 and I-80/94 two lanes apiece, rather than having two lanes merging into one and causing slowdowns," says Joshua Bingham, a spokesman for INDOT's LaPorte District.

Walsh Construction Guiding Phase 1

Phase 1 of the interchange project began in April 2007 and is scheduled for completion in May 2009. "This job is fast paced, so time is very crucial," says Ismail Attallah, P.E., an INDOT project engineer for the LaPorte District.

"We have to have the road open to unrestricted traffic by Nov. 1 of this year," says Marc Arena, project manager for Walsh Construction's Indiana division based in LaPorte.

Walsh Construction is constructing the first phase under a $46.2-million contract with INDOT that involves building new ramps from northbound I-65 to westbound I-80/94 and eastbound I-80/94 to southbound I-65; reconstruction of I-65; and work on three bridges — replacing two twin structures on I-65 and constructing a new bridge from southbound I-65 to a new Ridge Road exit ramp. One of the new twin bridges over the north-west ramp will be the longest post-tensioned, single-span, concrete bulb-T beam bridge in the country. According to Arena, Prestress Services supplied beams weighing 210,000 pounds to build the single-span bridge.

Walsh is about 50 percent complete with its phase, and crews are steadily moving forward with operations. "Our job has over a quarter-million yards of excavation and about 230,000 square feet of MSE wall, which is quite a lot," says Arena. "And we have around 100,000 squares of OC/QA pavement — 14- and 16-inch."

During an April visit by Construction Digest, the Walsh workforce was busy installing MSE wall, and placing 16-inch mainline concrete on southbound I-65 with a GOMACO PS-2600 belt placer and a GOMACO 9500 trimmer/placer.

Ozinga is supplying the concrete, utilizing a Vince Hagan concrete batch plant situated alongside I-65. "In the concrete mix, we are using slag aggregate as our coarse aggregate," says John Poncher, quality control manager for Ozinga.

Walsh crews are working six days a week, with limited nighttime construction. "The project has gone pretty smoothly," says Arena. "We have proceeded with the excavation, pipe, stone, and pavement operations with no major problems."

Superior/E & B Handling Phase 2

INDOT awarded the second contract for the I-80/94-I-65 interchange modification to the joint-venture team of Superior Construction Co. Inc., Gary, and E&B Paving Inc., Anderson, Ind., for $46 million. This work, which began in early 2008, includes reconstruction of I-65 in the area where it crosses over I-80/94, and reconstruction of Colorado Street over I-80/94.

Like the Phase 1 contract, Phase 2 construction is being done in rapid fashion. "We have a 275-day road closure restriction for I-65, so basically we have to have it open to traffic in nine months," says Dan Sopczak, a project manager/estimator for Superior. "The completion date is July 1, 2009."

Superior/E&B's contract calls for the removal of three bridges and the construction of six bridges, including a 720-foot-long flyover from westbound I-80/94 to southbound I-65. "We are on schedule for the flyover to be constructed by mid-July," says Steve Cuson, a project manager/estimator for Superior.

Superior Project Superintendent Pete Keilman says, "Along with the six bridges, our project has 120,000 square feet of MSE wall and 250,000 cubic yards of excavation. Beginning in August, our joint-venture partner, E&B Paving, will be installing 96,600 square yards of QC/QA concrete pavement — 12- and 16-inch."

Keilman says the project has gone well. "It is a unique project because we have closed a major intersection," he says.

Superior Project Superintendent Jeff Carlson reiterated how tight the schedule is: "Our labor force will peak at approximately 125 workers. We've been working six days a week plus a night shift for pile driving and bridge demolition."

Coordination and cooperation among the Phase 2 team and INDOT has propelled that phase quickly forward. "There is a lot of cooperation among the contractors and the state," says Jon Kruger, P.E., a project engineer/supervisor for INDOT's LaPorte District. "Everyone across the state knows that this job has to be done in 275 days in order to get the ramps and everything open. It is a priority job."

Working Together

Communication has been a key element in the success of the interchange modification project. "We are in contact with each other on a daily basis to discuss issues and solve problems before they impact a very tight schedule," says Attallah. "We also have formal meetings."

Both contracts are partnering jobs, and formal progress and incident management meetings, part of the partnering process, have achieved good results, according to Kruger and Attallah. "We meet with the contractors in a formal setting at least once a week," says Kruger. "At those meetings, we have TMC (Traffic Maintenance Center) personnel in attendance. Then, every other week we will have an incident management meeting that includes the Gary Fire Department, state police and other emergency personnel to talk about the different configurations of the job sites."

To grapple with the heavy, daily traffic flow on the Borman Expressway and I-65, INDOT has developed traffic management strategies. The department is working closely with public agencies to coordinate interchange restrictions and to coordinate day and nighttime operations in an attempt to minimize the impacts of the construction.

So far, the interchange project has been safe for workers and motorists. "Special state police patrols are involved with both contracts, and they have made a tremendous impact in slowing down vehicles," says Kruger. "The speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph within the construction zones throughout most of the project, and 30 to 40 mph on the ramps."

Looking Ahead To Phase 3

The I-80/94-I-65 interchange's third contract, which will address I-80/94, is scheduled to be let at the end of this year with construction beginning in 2009. It will involve adding a travel lane and connector lane to eastbound and westbound I-80/94, as well as replacing the pavement from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Central Avenue.