I694 Reconstruction Prevents Traffic Weaving

February 22, 2012

Northern suburbs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are getting traffic relief as construction on Interstate 694, Highway 10 and local roads will realign and repave lanes, replace deficient bridges, and provide safer travel.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed area roads to address this corridor’s lack of capacity, deteriorating roads and bridges, and traffic weaving when it began construction in September 2011. Project engineer Kevin Hagness said the eight bridges in the area had to be replaced.

“They were all built in the 1960s and are reaching the end of their design life. The pavements, mostly concrete and some asphalt, also will be replaced.”

Prime contractor Shafer Contracting Co. in Shafer, Minn., began building bypasses and new alignments. “We’re building some additional pavement to move traffic around the construction area,” Hagness said. “The paved areas are temporary to facilitate traffic for the remainder of construction.” The traffic shift also allows bridge demolition and construction in stages that Lunda Construction Co., a subcontractor, will perform.

“This is a design-bid-build job,” said Frank Weiss, vice president and project manager for Shafer Contracting. “The Mn/DOT design will alleviate traffic congestion at the intersections of Highway 10 and Snelling Avenue with I-694. We will build two loops at the interchange with northbound Snelling Avenue, one to westbound I-694 and one to westbound Highway 10, which will help traffic flow better. Access to I-694 eastbound from the local roads will be closed permanently.”

Snelling Ave split lanes will change

Currently, on I-694 eastbound, lanes split either going to Snelling Avenue or staying on I-694 with an open area in the middle of the lanes. With reconstruction, lanes of traffic will be next to each other and drivers won’t have to move to the left as they approach Snelling Avenue. On westbound I-694, asphalt paving on shoulders and the Highway 10 lanes will move traffic better.

“In some areas, we’ve removed pavement to realign I-694,” said Weiss. “Traffic will be able to use the existing pavement and bypasses while the new alignment of I-694 is being built.” The new alignment is a little south of the current roadway that has curves, which will be removed after reconstruction.           

Holte Contracting, Ramsey, Minn., was a subcontractor that removed contaminated material along I-694 east of Snelling Avenue.

“Mn/DOT had used this particular site as a disposal site and wanted special excavation to remove the contaminated material,” said Diane Holte, president and CEO. “We used one of our Komatsu excavators and rented a larger excavator to dig up that site, load it onto subcontractors’ trucks and Shafer’s trucks, and disposed the material at an approved facility, Vonco II, in Becker.”

Holte said the Minnesota government shutdown delayed this project, and Shafer rescheduled some of the work with subcontractors. “We sent four employees to work on the site, started on October 17, and finished on November 2. We removed a little more than 41,000 tons of material.” An approach to I-694 will be built on this site.

Underground pipe work

Reconstruction in the area also included replacing underground pipes. Meyer Contracting in suburban Maple Grove received a subcontract to furnish and install 30,000 feet of 12-inch to 48-inch reinforced concrete sewer pipes; 1,700 vertical feet of storm sewer structures; and 30,000 feet of drain tiles, according to Mike Derr, project manager. Meyer Contracting used its excavators for open cut excavation, loaders to carry and install pipes, and dozers to backfill the cut with one crew of six employees. New pipes run under I-694 from I-35W to Lexington Avenue, under Snelling Avenue for a half mile, and under Highway 10 for less than a mile. This spring and summer, two or three crews will continue to install pipes and backfill the areas to carry over the work and finish by November 2013.

Weiss said Shafer Contracting also excavated for the bridge abutments and piers. While Lunda Construction demolished some bridges, it also built a retaining wall along 694, one of five walls to be built in this area.

“We removed a bridge section over Old Snelling Avenue and built a staged widening over the bridge,” said Bruce Bartelt, area superintendent for Lunda Construction. “In October, we removed the Hamline Avenue bridge over westbound 694 and built the new north abutment.”

Bridges and retaining walls

Lunda Construction used its breakers and excavators for bridge demolition, said Bartelt. Lunda continues to drive piling for bridges and build substructure for bridges as well as placing concrete for retaining walls during the winter. More walls will be constructed in the same way during the summer.

The eight bridges will be constructed using similar methods. Bartelt said that six bridges will be prestressed concrete girders with concrete decks. “The two bridges that cross over Island Lake will be slab decks.” If weather permits, bridge decking could start in March and traffic patterns will be changed for the bridge work.

“The realignment of I-694 is within the existing right-of-way,” Weiss says. “We’re continuing our earthwork and hope to be paving, both asphalt and concrete, by June 2012 in some areas. Hardrives Inc. will pave the shoulders with asphalt this summer and Shafer will pave all of the concrete on I-694 mainline.”

Hegness said he and Shafer Contracting set up meetings with all the subcontractors to coordinate the day-to-day activities. A Mn/DOT inspection staff is on the job everyday to help everyone adhere to the plan that Hegness oversees.

The $42.5 million project will be completed by November 2013. Weiss said this project is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise pilot project where the goal is set higher than average at 17 percent female and minority business participation. Future projects may increase DBE participation in Minnesota. n