Rebuilding I-44/65 Interchange

By Curt Grandia | September 28, 2010

Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc. is at work on the reconstruction of the Interstate 44/U.S. Highway 65 interchange in Springfield, a long-anticipated project that will improve safety and better handle the average daily traffic count of more than 90,000 cars and trucks.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) first unveiled plans for the I-44/65 interchange improvements in 2001 and the project was identified as a top highway-improvement priority for the Springfield metro area by planners and community leaders with the Ozarks Transportation Organization, including the city of Springfield. The project was moved ahead two years from 2008 to 2006 on MoDOT's five-year road construction plan thanks to funding from Amendment 3, approved by the state's voters in November 2004.

Major components of the $25-million project include building a 1,500-foot directional "flyover" ramp from northbound U.S. 65 to westbound I-44, modifying two other ramps, and building a new northbound U.S. 65 bridge over I-44. The project also includes extensive MSE wall construction and rebuilding the northbound lanes of U.S. 65 between Kearney Street and Valley Water Mill Road.

Emery Sapp & Sons began its work in July and will receive a 1-percent bonus to complete the work by December 1, 2007, an incentive the Columbia, Mo.-based contractor intends to collect.

"We're about a third done with the job," said Emery Sapp & Sons Superintendent Hal Brenton in the week before Christmas. "You would always like to be further ahead than you are but we're doing well."

After being slowed somewhat by an ice storm and more than 10 inches of snow in early December, crews were busy working on piers for the flyover bridge and constructing the MSE wall from southbound 65 to westbound I-44.

The flyover bridge, which accounts for more than $8 million of the project, is about 1,500 feet long and will require about 63,000 square yards of concrete. It consists of eight bents and six piers being constructed by two crews.

"We've got two bridge foremen on the project," Brenton noted. "Tony Young's crew is working on the structures and Bobby Holland's crew is working on the caps."

Each of the structures includes four drilled shafts at depths from 18 feet to more than 30 feet. "The shafts go into 16-foot rock sockets, and we have rebar out of that into a 20-foot by 20-foot footing and the web comes up off of that so we have 200 cubic yards of concrete in each pier structure that you can't see," said Young.

The crews planned to start setting girders this month.

In addition to the piers, work was progressing quickly on the MSE wall from southbound 65 to westbound I-44 in December, as crews worked to beat a 120-day closure. The wall crew had previously finished the northbound 65 to eastbound I-44 MSE wall that was about 1,000 feet long and up to 26 feet tall. The wall along the southbound to westbound ramp is about 950 feet and up to 40 feet high.

"Right now, getting this wall done and getting the ramp open on time is our biggest challenge because there is a penalty," Brenton said. "We've got a good crew working on it and, today, we have 14 trucks hauling rock for the wall."

Key components of the MSE walls are the specially designed rock, 4-inch minus, and the straps that hold 5-foot by 5-foot precast wall panels. First the crews pour a footing, then they layer and compact the rock while putting the precast panels together. The panels are held in place by the steel straps which are, in turn, held by the compacted rock. On the southbound to eastbound wall alone, more than 51,000 tons of the 4-inch-minus rock is required.

"Building a wall like this is a challenge because of the different steps and the fact that we have different elevations," said Wall Foreman Gary Hayden. "You have to coordinate everything when you start coming across with the straps to hold everything up. With two walls, the distance and width have to perfect so there is a 'knack' to getting it right."

"It's an attractive wall and a unique design," Brenton said. The wall includes a drainage system, with filtering and drains built in at regular intervals. Once it is built up to the desired elevation, there's a fill, fabric over the dirt, 4 inches of base rock, and then 10 inches of concrete to complete the ramp.

Emery Sapp & Sons is utilizing GPS to ensure accuracy and fit on the project. "Our surveyor, Bart Brower, has done a super job helping us with every phase of the project, from laying pipe, to the box, base rock, and all the layout we've done for the walls and structures," Brenton said. "It's a massive project and I couldn't be happier about what he's been able to do working mostly by himself."

"We're using Trimble GPS and a Trimble Total Robotic Station to do all of our layout," said Brower, who does have a grade checker working on-site. "The state set the control up around the job and we use their control points and our plans to establish control and layout for everything on the job. We have a base station and use the robotic station to lay everything out. It's got to be right at the bottom so that everything fits at the top."

Emery Sapp & Sons has about 40 workers on the project and is self-performing the concrete work (piers, structures and paving) and building the MSE walls. According to Brenton, and Field Project Manager T.J. Stastny, coordination and communication are the keys to success for the Columbia, Mo.-based contractor.

"Scheduling and communication are vital because everything changes so fast out here," said Stastny. "What I mean by that is that we get a lot of work done day-to-day so short-term and long-term scheduling are important and also the communication necessary to keep everyone informed so that we can hit our milestones and produce what we say we're going to produce.

"It's a difficult project because we can't just go build it. There's a lot of phasing and staging involved because we have to have one thing done before we can do another."

"A lot of other contractors might say this, but the structure of our company really is phenomenal," Brenton said. "Everyone is involved and we're very organized in our communication and our work from top to bottom. We have the resources we need to do our work and to make sure potential problems don't become problems. That communication and coordination enable us to do jobs of this magnitude and have them go smoothly."


Replacing A 60s-Era Cloverleaf

Construction of the original Interstate 44/U.S. Highway 65 interchange began in 1963 and the final phase of the cloverleaf was completed in 1978 when a new U.S. 65 was built north of I-44.

MoDOT's current reconstruction project is necessary because the 1960's design cannot handle today's traffic volume of more than 90,000 cars and trucks, an average daily count that is expected to reach 120,000 by 2022.

Emery Sapp & Sons' work will modify the 1960s-era cloverleaf design by building a new directional "flyover" ramp for northbound U.S. 65 traffic to westbound I-44. The new configuration will eliminate the cloverleaf on the northeast corner of the interchange, enabling westbound I-44 to southbound U.S. 65 traffic to exit without having to watch for westbound vehicles entering at the same spot.

Key personnel on the project for Emery Sapp & Sons include: Chip Jones, project manager; Hal Brenton, superintendent; T.J. Stastny, field project manager; Bart Brower, surveyor; Tony Young, bridge foreman; Bobby Holland, bridge foreman; and Gary Hayden, MSE wall foreman.