Reconstructing I-64 In St. Louis

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is in the middle of a very busy construction season, with many key highway and bridge projects under way across the state. But none is bigger than the $535-million new I-64 Project — the reconstruction of Interstate 64/U.S. 40, a major, six-lane, east-west arterial in the St. Louis metropolitan area connecting downtown with the western suburbs.

A crane lifts a steel girder for the east to north flyover ramp in St. Louis. (Photo by Dan Galvin, Gateway Constructors)

Stretching from west of Spoede Road in St. Louis County to east of Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis, the 3.5-year-long project involves the reconstruction of nearly 10 miles of I-64, with 12 new interchanges, six overpasses, and a new freeway-to-freeway interchange with I-170 in Richmond Heights.

"On the western half of the project — from I-170 out to Ballas Road, we are adding one lane in each direction," says Dan Galvin, public information manager for the contractor, Gateway Constructors. "On the eastern half, we will be adding auxiliary lanes to allow easier merging."

According to MoDOT, the project will provide much needed improvements to the interstate. Some of the structures in the I-64 corridor are more than 60 years old. The original roadway and bridges were built in the late 1930s through the early 1960s, and weren't designed to handle the 140,000 to 150,000 vehicles that use the highway each day.

For the New I-64 Project, deteriorated road pavement and bridges are being removed and replaced, and new features are being added to make traveling through St. Louis safer, easier and less congested. There will be improved traffic flow through better design, with elimination of short, tight entrance/exit ramps and merges, and the addition of dedicated exit lanes and wider shoulders.

"We're bringing the highway up to current day standards," says Galvin. "It was literally crumbing. Of the 29 bridges we are reconstructing on the project, about half of them were rated at 3 or 4 on a scale of 9. When a bridge is new it is rated a 9 and when it gets to be a 2 you have to close it. So, reconstruction of many of these bridges along I-64 was long overdue."

The $535-million project is the largest highway project in Missouri history and is the first design-build project for MoDOT. On Nov. 17, 2006, the state selected Gateway Constructors as the contractor. The design-build consortium is composed of Granite Construction Co., Watsonville, CA; Fred Weber Inc., Creve Coeur, MO; Millstone Bangert Inc., St. Louis; Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Pasadena, CA; and URS Corp., San Francisco.

Additional team members are Gerstner Electric Inc.; Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier; Horner & Shifrin Inc.; Terracon Consultants Inc.; and Vector Communications.

Multiphase Project

Official groundbreaking for the New I-64 Project was March 19, 2007. In early 2008, the western, 5-mile half of the project — between Spoede Road and I-170 — was closed in both directions and will remain closed until Dec. 31 for reconstruction. Then, in January 2009, all lanes of the eastern half — between I-170 and Kingshighway Boulevard — will be closed for the entire year. All lanes of I-64 and I-170 are scheduled to reopen by Dec. 31, 2009. Final work and landscaping will be complete by July 31, 2010.

Closing segments of the highway and doing the project in phases allows for an accelerated schedule that will cut construction time from several years to three years and provides safer conditions for construction workers and the public.

The design-build process is allowing Gateway Constructors much flexibility in overcoming design and construction challenges as they emerge, and staying within the $420-million budget for actual construction. Design-build is estimated to reduce actual construction costs on the project by about 20 percent.

"Design-build saves cost and time," says Galvin. "It also helps eliminate a lot of the conflict between design and construction that sometimes pops up on a project. Decisions happen a lot faster with design-build, and you get a lot of over-the-shoulder review that can catch problems before they occur out in the field and are expensive to fix."

Proceeding On Schedule

A significant amount of construction has taken place throughout the 10-mile project despite record-setting amounts of rain this year. "The project is on schedule and everything is going well," Galvin says.

Crews have removed and processed more than 130,000 tons of concrete and asphalt that used to be I-64 structures, road surface or road base, and prepared it to be reused for paving the new highway. In addition, workers have been busy moving dirt in extensive earthmoving operations, and installing pipe and MSE wall panels.

Bridge work has accounted for much of the project activity since January. Galvin says the 29 bridges being rebuilt along the project route include interchanges and overpasses. Two basic interchange types are being used — diamond interchanges and single-point urban interchanges. Roundabouts are being constructed at the I-64 interchange with Spoede Road and at the intersection of Hampton Avenue and Wells Drive.

New concrete pavement will be placed throughout the I-64 corridor. "In areas where the geometry and elevation worked out, we are going to use the existing roadway as the base for the new highway, and place a 9-1/2-inch concrete overlay," says Galvin. "The remaining areas will receive 11-inch full-depth concrete."

Workforce Diversity

Approximately 250 people are currently working on the I-64 project. "That total should increase to about 300 when we start the mainline paving," Galvin notes.

MoDOT is committed to increasing the number of minority, female and economically disadvantaged individuals working on the I-64 project. In May 2006, the I-64 Workforce Utilization Plan Partnering Agreement was signed by MoDOT, local contractors and union reps, minority contractors, and community groups. All pledged to increase the number of trained workers for the I-64 project.

Recently, Gateway Constructors was named General Contractor of the Year for its commitment to workplace diversity and its inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in the highway reconstruction project. The award was presented to Gateway by MOKAN, an organization that assists the construction industry to develop and grow minority- and women-owned businesses.

"We're quite pleased and proud to have been awarded this recognition by MOKAN," states George Harvey, Gateway Constructors' project manager for the I-64 project. "We've worked hard at meeting or exceeding the project's goal for minority-owned business participation. To date, we're actually ahead of that goal."

Gateway's contract with MoDOT calls for a goal of 16 percent DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) participation. The I-64 project also includes a workforce development program that requires 20 percent of the workforce to come from several local on-the-job trainee (OJT) programs,including Pride and the CPC. Working with local unions, Gateway has already placed 56 OJT employees on the project as equipment operators, carpenters and laborers.

Minimizing/Mitigating Construction Impacts

According to Linda Wilson, MoDOT's I-64 community relations manager, one of the project's goals established by the department was to minimize and mitigate construction impacts to customers through construction staging and communications efforts. Unprecedented efforts of regional cooperation and collaboration resulted in improvements to all parallel roads to I-64 between I-64 and I-44 prior to the project's start. And MoDOT, city and county governments, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement firms worked together to prepare for the traffic.

Thanks to advanced planning and a very effective communications program that has included media briefings, the posting of traffic info on the web and message boards, area residents have been kept informed and traffic is flowing very well around the region. "So far, the public's reaction to the project has been extremely positive," Galvin says.

MoDOT hired HDR Engineering Inc. to complete a four-year research project on the impacts of the I-64 construction and closure. The research will look at before, during and afterconditions on regional traffic mobility and economic impacts.

In April, HDR released its first quarterly report on the impact of the first two months of the I-64 closure. The report evaluated the areas of communications, mobility and economics during January and February 2008. The report included the results of more than 1,700 people who were surveyed by mail, on-line and in person. Satisfaction results were high with more than 90 percent reporting they were kept informed on the project with timely information.

Three-quarters of respondents also were satisfied with the decision to close the highway for two years of impacts instead of possibly six to eight years of construction.