Equipment Type

OKC I-40 Crosstown

Despite funding worries, escalating diesel prices and opposition from local citizen groups, construction of the replacement Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City is moving forward. With an expected price tag of $557 million, this is the largest transportation construction project in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) history.

December 01, 2008

Despite funding worries, escalating diesel prices and opposition from local citizen groups, construction of the replacement Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City is moving forward. With an expected price tag of $557 million, this is the largest transportation construction project in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) history.

And the project is being built none too soon. The existing I-40 Crosstown Expressway, 8,888 feet long and almost entirely elevated, is rated as one of the most deficient bridges in the nation and has captured the attention of local emergency officials. It has a federal highway sufficiency rating that was one point lower than the Minnesota Bridge that collapsed in August 2007. Its 289 fracture-critical members, which have exceeded their expected fatigue life, are tested every six months, according to Taylor Henderson, an engineer with the ODOT.

As one of the only all-weather, east-west, coast-to-coast Interstate highways in the nation, the importance of the route's condition cannot be overstated. Originally built in 1965 for $12.25 million, the I–40 Crosstown had an intended capacity of 76,000 vehicles per day. It currently carries about 120,000 vehicles per day, according to ODOT. The new highway has been designed to carry up to 173,000 vehicles per day on a combination of at-grade and semi-depressed roadway. The new section, being built approximately five blocks south of the existing facility, stretches four and a half miles, from May Avenue to the I-235/I-35 juncture.

Earlier Contracts

ODOT is contracting the I-40 Crosstown Expressway and boulevard improvement in a series of 23 separate construction projects. To date, fewer than half of the contracts have been let, with the next tentatively scheduled to let in early 2009.

Initial contracts dealing with preparation phases have been completed. Urban Contractors, Inc., of Oklahoma City completed utility relocation in 2007.

Muskogee Bridge Co. Inc. has also completed the first section of construction called “canal bridges.” These particularly aesthetic eastbound and westbound I-40 mainline bridges will allow the future extension of the city's canal system from the Oklahoma River with its water taxis and pedestrians to pass underneath. Future plans include extending the canal from near the river to the north side of I-40 adjacent to Bricktown. Development of retail, entertainment and commercial establishments in this entertainment district is progressing along the canal system.

This contract also involved constructing a railroad bridge over the Union Pacific Rail Road (UPRR) and shoofly, UPRR interim connection.

Railroad Bridges

Near Shields and South 7th St., Muskogee Bridge erected a temporary shoofly bridge for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) main line to ensure railroad traffic would not be interrupted throughout construction. In a separate contract, the same contractor is constructing a new permanent north/south BNSF railroad bridge over the future Crosstown.

Its massive beams spanning the widest area of mainlanes are 16 feet tall and 159 feet long. The steel beams were shipped as 16-foot by 30-foot plates from Mittal Steel in Pennsylvania and fabricated in OKC by local fabricator Capital Steel. Each piece weighed about 300,000 pounds, necessitating Muskogee Bridge to bring in two 150-ton American cranes to set these six girders.

The other spans, not as deep, range from 128 feet to 136 feet; three of them are steel and five are concrete.

“We were trying to build as economical a bridge as possible, so we didn't go with the deep beam section where we didn't require it because the span lengths weren't as long,” said John Bowman, project development engineer for ODOT.

Vehicular Bridges

Just to the west of the BNSF line, Shields Avenue will become elevated over the new I-40. Because of a refining facility formerly located at the site, ODOT contracted Tetra-Tech to remediate the soil. Hayward Baker was brought in to inject the proprietary chemical mix and stabilizing grout into the soil to improve, remediate and semi-stabilize the soil in the area, according to Chris Caldwell of Hayward Baker. They used their Bauer BG 24 rotary-style drill rig along with a number of locally rented excavators and telehandlers to support the activity of the drilling rig.

Muskogee Bridge was then able to begin drilling the 60-foot-deep, 84-inch-diameter piers for the Shields Avenue bridge. Even though this section is more than a quarter of a mile from the Oklahoma River at this spot, the drilling crew had issues with groundwater from the river, requiring a great deal of dewatering, according to Rich Horrocks, project manager for Muskogee Bridge Co.

Before this construction, the north-south thoroughfares of Robinson Avenue, Walker Avenue, and Western Avenue tunneled under the railroad tracks located at grade. After this construction, they will cross over the tracks and the new semi-depressed freeway. “You can't change the alignment of a railroad, so we wanted to keep them on their existing alignment,” explained Henderson. “It takes several miles to change the alignment of a railroad.”

“These underpasses were constructed in 1931 and no longer meet the design aspects for modern rail and interstate loading,” added Bowman. “During the environmental clearance process, we looked at a combination of 21 different possibilities for the alignments.” Poe & Associates was the design engineer for this center section.

ODOT Scheduling

Contract scheduling has been strongly decided by financing, but other reasons have come into play.

“The idea is to keep the contractors geographically split so one would not adversely impact another's schedule,” said Bowman.

Construction is taking place on both ends of 4.5-mile corridor, where Allen Contracting builds the eastern interchange and a joint venture of Muskogee Bridge and Allen Contracting works on the western side, which includes a portion of the tie-in to I-40.

The four-level east I-40/235/35 interchange, which was designed by the Benham Company, overcomes tight right-of-way, an existing adjacent railroad that crosses the interchange in two points at different angles, a nearby creek, multilevel high-speed ramps, and exits to multiple city streets surrounding the project location. Benham designed replacements for five of the existing bridges, modified four of the bridges and added three new bridges. Bridge structures include single and multispan systems both horizontally curved and straight, structural steel, cast-in-place, and span structures.

The west interchange, designed by Cobb Engineering, contains five bridges plus a considerable amount of earthmoving and large drainage structure. The large size of the project and the diversity of requirements made this contract perfect for a joint venture between Muskogee Bridge and Allen Contracting. “Allen does some different types of work – paving and drainage – which is not our area of expertise,” said Horrocks. “It worked out well for both of us.”

The new bridges to be built under this contract include: Pennsylvania Avenue over the Oklahoma River, including raising the elevation on north end; a new Pennsylvania Avenue bridge over new Crosstown; connectors to the future Boulevard, which goes over Agnew Avenue; and a new bridge over Agnew for new EB I-40. Because the package to construct the semi-depressed roadway has not yet let, the contractors must bring in fill from other sources to build up the ramps, according to Bowman.

“This project required 815,000 cubic yards of borrow,” Horrocks explained. “We trucked in fill from other areas around Oklahoma City: from near the airport, from a detention pond that the city was building, and from private sources.”

The coordination between all the pieces of the project has been an interesting development of this project, according to Horrocks. “We've been fortunate to have several of the contracts, so we're coordinating with ourselves and Allen Contracting. Coordinating with ourselves has helped the whole process. The contracts are fairly close to each other, and we can move throughout this corridor with our equipment.”

To the west of where the new route ties into existing I-40 west of downtown, project No. 3.1A was awarded to OBC Inc. of Edmond, OK. This $6-million project deals with widening the existing westbound I-40 mainlanes, reconstruction of the May Avenue off-ramp, and improvements to May Ave. under I-40. This work is a necessary step enabling the current interstate to accommodate both directions of traffic during a later phase of construction.

More recently a $40,574,036 contract was awarded to Sherwood Construction Co. of Catoosa, OK, to grade and drain 2.649 miles from east of Pennsylvania Avenue to west of Shartel Avenue and construct bridges and railroad. The next contract, which will be let early in 2009, will be to build the southbound Shields Avenue bridge, Robinson Avenue and Walker Avenue bridges, plus grading and rail from Santa Fe Avenue to Western Avenue.

Aesthetics

The new expressway will incorporate 10 lanes. Retaining walls along the semi-depressed lanes of the new I-40 will complement architectural aspects of Union Station and Little Flower Church. The semi-depressed lanes will help attenuate traffic noise into neighborhoods.

An at-grade, six-lane landscaped boulevard will take the place of the current elevated I-40 Crosstown. It has been designed to allow easier access to the highway and enhance visitors' first impression of Oklahoma City. A pedestrian bridge and a new park are being planned to enhance the quality of life near downtown.

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