Innovation Used On M-115 Project

By Aram Kalousdian, Editor, and The Federal Highway Administration | September 28, 2010

The increased demand on U.S. infrastructure guarantees increased roadway construction and maintenance over the next 20 years, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

In order to help prepare for this demand, FHWA has been working to identify, develop and promote new methods to reconstruct highways and bridges that are safer, faster and more effective. One tool is Performance Contracting for Construction (PCfC), an approach that allows transportation agencies to define a desired project outcome while allowing the contractor to determine how to accomplish the work in order to meet quality, functional and cost goals that can be evaluated using clear, observable performance measures.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was interested in performance contracting as a means to accom plish necessary roadwork cost-effectively and with minimal disruption to travelers and maximum safety for workers and travelers. Having learned through a Highways for Life (HfL) announcement that a PCfC workshop was available, Michigan officials decided to participate as a pilot state. As part of this process, Michigan selected the planned, approximately 5.5-mile "M-115 Roadway Improvements and Bridge Replacements on M-115 from Lake Station Avenue to Clare/Osceola County Line" reconstruction project as its pilot. M-115 is a two-lane rural route. The approximately $4.5-million project began in May 2008 and was completed in October 2008.

The project, which was in Clare County, MI, included the replacement of the superstructure of two bridges and the rehabilitation of an old hot mix asphalt overlay that was placed over a concrete pavement.

By using performance contracting as an innovative approach on the M-115 construction project, MDOT took advantage of the special consideration offered to funding applicants under the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) HfL program and technical assistance provided by USDOT for the Performance Contracting Framework. As a pilot state, Michigan contractors and government officials received targeted assistance from subject matter experts.

"Highways for Life's purpose is to promote techniques that will get innovations into the mainstream faster. The program provides a variety of opportunities to designers and builders to see firsthand the innovations in use," James Steele, Michigan Division administrator for FHWA, said at the September 2008 M-115 Performance Contracting for Construction Showcase held in Clare, MI.

"One of the things that Highways for Life is trying to do is to help us find ways to build better safety into the projects. We are trying to make our work zones safer and better," Steele said.

The prime contractor for the M-115 project was selected based on a combination of bid amount, qualifications and innovations proposed. The contractor was asked to achieve certain goals or outcomes and was given the opportunity to propose innovative methods in the areas of pavement performance, construction duration, work zone delays, and work zone accidents.

The Performance Contracting Framework contains the overall process and guidance on project selection — processes, lessons learned and sample solicitation package materials for:

  • performance goals
  • measurement methodology
  • an enhanced low bid award process
  • a best value award process
  • the Special Experimental Projects (SEP)-14 process, which includes cost-plus-time bidding, lane rental, design-build contracting, and warranty clauses.

Central Asphalt, Inc., of Mt. Pleasant, MI, the prime contractor for the project, widened the existing shoulder to provide two-way traffic for most of the construction stages, which eliminated most traffic regulator operations. They also provided emergency pull-off areas and motorist assistance services.

One innovation that Central Asphalt developed and implemented on the project was the elimination of joint repairs, which would've involved grinding out the existing cold patch material and concrete, and patching with hot mix asphalt. Bill Mayhew, delivery engineer for MDOT, said that process fixes the joint and puts in some expansion, but it leaves bumps and cracks.

Central Asphalt eliminated joint repairs by completely milling off the asphalt over the existing concrete, rubblizing the concrete and leaving it in place. Instead of using the conventional MDOT base course, they used an asphalt stabilized crack relief (ASCR) layer.

"This was a great innovation. I'm not aware of MDOT using that mix over a rubblized pavement. The rubblizing will take care of 90 percent of the joints and cracking. Now we have a crack-relief layer over the top of that. I'm expecting a great pavement for 10 to 15 years. The wear course is a high-stress performance graded asphalt," Mayhew said.

The road has 12-foot lanes with 5-foot shoulders. In order to achieve good ride quality, instead of integrating the shoulder and main line paving, Central Asphalt decided to pave the 12-foot lanes all the way through without stopping and then pave the shoulders.

Subcontractors on the project included D.J. McQuestion & Sons, Inc., of LeRoy, MI (dirt work, slope restoration, drainage and concrete); Antigo Construction, Inc., of Antigo, WI (rubblizing); Dale Dukes & Sons, Inc., of Big Rapids, MI (guardrail); P.K. Contracting (pavement markings); and J. Ranck Electric.

Material quantities on the project included approximately 47,000 tons of hot mix asphalt and approximately 71,000 square yards of rubblizing.


Project: M-115 rehabilitation in Clare County, MI

Prime contractor: Central Asphalt, Inc., of Mt. Pleasant, MI

Cost: Approximately $4.5 million