Tackling The Terrain For U.S. 35

Sept. 28, 2010

In West Virginia, numerous excavators, scrapers, dozers, and trucks are transforming the beautiful Putnam County landscape into a new four-lane section of U.S. 35. Crews for Kokosing Construction Co. Inc. are clearing a path for the new route through very steep and rough terrain, moving 7.5 million cubic yards of earth.

In West Virginia, numerous excavators, scrapers, dozers, and trucks are transforming the beautiful Putnam County landscape into a new four-lane section of U.S. 35. Crews for Kokosing Construction Co. Inc. are clearing a path for the new route through very steep and rough terrain, moving 7.5 million cubic yards of earth.

Kokosing received a $73.8-million contract in March 2007 — the first design-build contract awarded by the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) — to construct a 6.3-mile stretch of Route 35 between WV Route 34 and Hurricane Creek Road (County Route 19). This section, scheduled for completion by April 30, 2009, represents a vital segment in the state's ongoing series of projects to develop new U.S. 35 from Interstate 64 to the Buffalo Bridge.

New U.S. 35 is another step toward safer, faster transportation in the Mountain State. The new four-lane, divided highway will provide motorists with a substantial upgrade from existing two-lane U.S. 35, a narrow roadway carrying thousands of vehicles each day between West Virginia and Ohio. Approximately 35 percent of that traffic is tractor-trailers.

Kokosing Reshaping Landscape

Kokosing crews have been busy reshaping hills and hollows as they push steadily forward on the challenging, two-year Route 35 project near Winfield. "This project has the largest scope of earthwork that we have undertaken," says Ken Lake, assistant vice president for Kokosing's Highway Group based in Columbus, Ohio. "The terrain is rugged, and we are making 200-foot cuts throughout the job."

In tackling the new U.S. 35 project, Kokosing is responsible for constructing a new highway featuring two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot and 4-foot shoulders in each direction, and building new structures — a pair of single-span bridges over Hurricane Creek spanning 184 feet with 69-inch plate girders, and a pair of single-span bridges over WV Route 34 spanning 107 feet with 60-inch Type IV-J concrete beams.

In addition, substantial drainage work is associated with the project, such as 2,729 linear feet of 8- to 10-inch sanitary sewer and 4,067 linear feet of 6- to 10-inch water lines. According to Steve Geib, senior project engineer for Kokosing, a total of 33,583 linear feet of conduit is included in the project. Major drainage runs include 998 linear feet of twin 84-inch multiplate conduit, 724 linear feet of twin 60-inch multiplate conduit, 798 linear feet of single 84-inch multiplate conduit, 609 linear feet of single 72-inch multiplate conduit, 343 linear feet of 108-inch CMP, 1,984 linear feet of 84-inch CMP, and 506 linear feet of 96-inch CMP.

Kokosing is self-performing most of the work. The contractor is subcontracting out specialty items like clearing, fence, guardrail, seeding, and sign work.

First Foray Into Design-Build

For Kokosing Construction Co., the U.S. 35 project represents the first project it has done for WVDOH, and the project represents the division's first foray into design-build. It has been a learning experience for both parties. Since this is a design-build project, the normal WVDOH procedures don't always apply. The department and contractor have worked together to establish procedures for these items.

"This project has been a very good experience for each of us," says Richard Wellman, project manager for WVDOH. "We have gotten along very well. This is a big job, so it takes a real partnering effort to get things done. There has been a lot of cooperation, and as a result the project has been a success, so far."

Design-build is a project delivery method that has been more prevalent in private sector work but is gaining more acceptance among public sector transportation agencies. It combines two usually separate services into a single project.

"Obviously, a design-build project presents its challenges because a lot of times you are building and you are still designing," explains Lake, a 20-year Kokosing veteran. "But there are a lot of benefits to design-build as well."

For example, due to several reasons, the earthwork in some areas of the project did not balance. But with design-build, Kokosing was able to work with the designers (E.L. Robinson, Charleston, W. Va.) to adjust the profile grade in some areas to help balance the earthwork quantities.

Kokosing has participated in design-build projects in Ohio. Company officials say a key advantage of design-build from a contractor's viewpoint is that it allows the contractor to design the items of work that are the most cost effective and most productive up front on a fast-paced project.

"On design-bid-build projects, you have a complete set of plans at the beginning of the project," says Lake. "On this project, the design was broken down into three sections of grade and drain on mainline, two bridge packages, and a surface package with paving, guardrail and fence. There is not enough time to wait until the design is complete to begin working. There is a constant circulation of plans that are being designed, reviewed and submitted for approval."

He adds, "This job has a pretty quick turnaround for a project of its magnitude, so that is a challenge and will be a challenge until we get it done."

Working In Rugged Terrain

Access to the new U.S. 35 project has also been a challenge. Kokosing says the rugged terrain took significant planning and work to create access, break down the cuts, and establish haul roads to begin excavation.

Initial drainage runs took a lot of pre-planning to install. In some locations there was not much room in the bottom of the hollows to install the pads to begin the initial embankment, store materials, divert water, and install the conduit. Sometimes, the temporary diversion channel was changed daily and moved into the installed conduit at the end of the shift due to lack of room.

"The terrain is very, very steep, and in the bottom of the big hollows is the big pipe," says Lake. "And we had to get the big pipe in before we could actually move the hills down to it. The project is situated far away from anything, so it was very challenging trying to get the pipe materials in place and backfill into those hollows with very little roadway intersections."

Optimizing Productivity

Earthmoving crews are using a variety of equipment, including Komatsu PC400, PC1250 and PC2000 excavators, Caterpillar 773 and 777 rock trucks, and Caterpillar 627 and 631 scrapers. "We have an extensive amount of equipment on site," says Lake. "During the summer months, we were moving a million yards of earth a month. And we moved 900,000 cubic yards in January before the onset of bad weather in February and March."

To optimize its productivity on the project, Kokosing is utilizing Trimble's grade control system on several of its machines, along with the Trimble Construction Manager (TCM), software designed to help manage equipment and operations.

"We installed Trimble TCM equipment on some of the key excavators, trucks and dozers to constantly record and transmit data," says Geib, a 16-year member of the Kokosing team. "We can log into the computer at any time from the office and tell how many loads we have hauled at a particular time of day. We can see what time the first load went out and how much time was spent between loads. We have the ability to run reports to show how many loads each unit hauled each day, cycle times, etc. This has helped us have a better understanding of the earthwork operations and make modifications."

Preparing Site For Concrete Pavement

During a March visit by Construction Digest, construction operations were under way throughout the 6.3-mile project site, and a large contingent of workers was on the job.

Last summer, during the peak of excavation, a workforce of approximately 150 was working double shifts (two 10-hour shifts). "When all of the excavation crews were working, we normally worked five days a week with some selected crews working Saturdays," Lake says.

Kokosing is nearing the end of the project's grade and drain phase. "We have the majority of our bulk earthwork done — we have 1-1/2 million cubic yards remaining out of the 7.5 million cubic yards being moved," Lake says. "By mid-year, we will start mainline concrete paving."

Lake notes, "We will bring a portable concrete batch plant (an Erie Strayer 12-cubic-yard plant) to the site for the concrete paving operations. We anticipate placing 130,000 cubic yards of concrete for the new pavement."

The 10.75-inch, non-reinforced concrete pavement will be placed with a Guntert & Zimmerman 850 concrete paver with a dowel bar inserter.

U.S. 35 Project Officials

In addition to Ken Lake and Steve Geib, key members of Kokosing's construction team are bid team members Brad Bowers, Kevin Ohl, Fred Svoboda, and Steve Prosek; project superintendents Terry Sheba, Joe Baker, Joe Sheets, Steve Evans, Jeff Barton, Jody Gum, John Hearn, and Ben Mason; equipment superintendent Bill Davis; and project engineers Tom Wynkoop and Bryce Burgett.

For WVDOH, Richard Wellman is joined on site by Fred Blackwell, project supervisor. Other project participants are Dee Begley and Kelly Kees of the Engineering Division.

Members of E.L. Robinson's design team are James Barna, P.E., project engineer; Kevin White, P.E., design engineer; Faheem Ahmad, P.E., design engineer; and Tim Cart, P.E., design engineer.