Upgrading U.S. 30

Story by Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is pursuing a $1.4-billion construction program this year, up from $1.3 billion in 2005. One of the key mega projects under way is construction of a new section of U.S. 30 running between State Route 235 in Hancock County and the Upper Sandusky bypass in Wyandot County. This 26.4-mile (16.2 miles in Hancock County and 10.2 miles in Wyandot County) project, scheduled for completion in October 2007, will complete the upgrade of U.S. 30 to a four-lane route in northwest Ohio.

According to ODOT, the upgrade marks a significant step toward rebuilding Ohio's stressed transportation network, and will address safety and congestion issues. The existing two-lane section of U.S. 30 is outdated and overburdened with traffic. Truck traffic alone has grown by 63 percent over the last 10 years and makes up more than half of the traffic along this section of U.S. 30. The new four-lane section will be wider and safer with medians, wider shoulders and ramps to control access and manage ever-growing traffic volumes.

A joint venture between E.S. Wagner Co., Oregon, Ohio, and The Shelly Co., Findlay, Ohio, is constructing the limited-access, four-lane highway on a new alignment one-half mile south of existing U.S. 30. The project includes interchanges at State Route 235, U.S. 68 and S.R. 37 in Hancock County, and at County Road 330 in Wyandot County (the former two-lane U.S. 30 route).

The new highway represents one of the most expensive projects in ODOT history, and "is the biggest project the district has let," says Mike Murphy, P.E., an ODOT District 1 project engineer—in charge of the U.S. 30 roadwork. The Wagner/Shelly joint venture received a $98.8-million contract from ODOT prior to beginning work in mid-2005, and now—with change orders—the project cost is pegged at $102 million.

It is a massive project that features a seven-year warranty on the asphalt pavement and QC/QA bridge decks. Key components include 4.3 million yards of excavation, construction of 21 bridges (11 in Hancock County and 10 in Wyandot County), 117,000 lineal feet of drainage, 860,000 feet of underdrains, 1.4 million square yards of soil stabilization, 256,000 cubic yards of aggregate base, and 533,000 cubic yards of asphalt.

"There is certainly plenty of work," says Jim Wilson, project manager/chief estimator for E.S. Wagner Co., who is heading the joint-venture operation. "This project represents the largest joint venture our company has been involved with. From the standpoint of schedule, we have three seasons to build the project. In 2006 alone, our goal is to pave 17.5 miles of four-lane roadway. To facilitate the 2007 completion of the project, we must adhere closely to established project milestones."

He adds, "The project has an aggressive schedule, but E.S. Wagner has the resources—both manpower and equipment resources—available to complete this project within the timeframe. Obviously, we need the cooperation of the weather, but all contractors need that type of cooperation. It is a very challenging job because most people don't think in terms of this type of distance—over 26 miles. Most jobs are 2 to 3 miles long, but here it takes an hour to drive from one end of the job to the other and back."

Wilson points out that the project is unique because it involves "new" construction. "We're building a new alignment, and there is not a lot of new construction left to be done in the state," he says. "So, the future of new alignment is not that great—you are going to see more interstate rehab type projects and existing alignment rehabilitations."

The U.S. 30 project is also unique in that it is actually three projects in one. "Originally, the project was designed to be sold at three separate times, and it was designed by three different parties: ODOT drew one section; HNTB, Cleveland, drew another; and the third section was drawn by CT Consultants Inc., Columbus, Ohio," Murphy explains. "So, now we have three embankment references, three excavation references, three asphalt references, and three stone references. It is a bookkeeping nightmare in that we have to make sure we are paying the unit prices on the proper part, because some of the unit prices are different and some are the same on all three parts."

Final Section In District 1

Construction of U.S. 30 in Hancock and Wyandot counties is the final project of four in District 1 to upgrade U.S. 30 from a two-lane to a four-lane highway. When the current project is completed, motorists will be able to travel a four-lane U.S. 30 from the Indiana state line to Canton. Projects to upgrade the remaining sections of U.S. 30 in Stark, Carroll and Columbiana counties are in the planning phases.

The U.S. 30 upgrade is part of Ohio Governor Bob Taft's Jobs and Progress Plan. The Jobs and Progress Plan, unveiled in 2003, is a $5-billion, 10-year plan to rebuild Ohio's urban interstate networks, address high-crash locations and complete the state's rural macro-corridors, like U.S. 30 and U.S. 24.

District 1 is not only overseeing construction of the new section of U.S. 30 but is also guiding work on a new section of U.S. 24. In May, the District hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the new U.S. 24 section, which will extend from S.R. 424 in Defiance County to just east of S.R. 15 west of Defiance (E.S. Wagner Co. was awarded the contract for the $36.7-million project).

On The Job

Following groundbreaking in May 2005, the Wagner/Shelly joint venture began attacking the final U.S. 30 project in northwest Ohio with full force. As a result, a tremendous amount of construction was completed. According to Wilson, crews moved 62 percent of the earthwork in 2005, or 2.6 million yards, placed 94,000 cubic yards of granular embankment (51 percent of the item), installed 37,400 feet of pipe, performed 371,000 square yards of soil stabilization, placed 67,744 cubic yards of aggregate base, and performed 140,000 cubic yards of rock blasting.

Murphy notes that 42 miles of underdrain were installed last year; about 10,527 cubic yards of concrete were placed in the substructures and superstructures; 239 acres of land received permanent seed and 226 acres received temporary seed in 2005; and crews performed approximately 3,100 square yards of patching to local roadways in Hancock County. Approximately 263,000 tons of the 1.15 million tons of asphalt on the project were placed in '05. Seven miles of the new section of U.S. 30 were paved from S.R. 235 to CR 9 in Hancock County, and 8 miles of the project were rough graded, ready for pavement build-up in the 2006 season.

Following the critical path, the project is on schedule. This year, the project team anticipates having "better than 25 of the 26 miles done," Murphy says.

Among its goals this season, Wagner/Shelly plans to build 11 bridges, move 1.5 million yards of embankment, install 114 miles of under-drain, blast 60,000 cubic yards of rock, lime stabilize 950,000 square yards of grade, and place 325,000 tons of aggregate base. And it will utilize hundreds of workers to meet those goals.

Construction is taking place throughout the project. "There is some jumping around," Wilson says. "Primarily the job is being built from west to east. But to facilitate the project schedule, there is going to be some work that will start at S.R. 37 and progress to the east, and then fall back to the middle section."

Placing Asphalt

A significant volume of asphalt will be placed this season. "We plan to put down 814,000 tons if we can get surface all the way from the west end to the east end," says Brian Smith, divisional operations manager for The Shelly Co. "In doing so, we will be running dual shifts a period of time. In about two months, we will have four crews on the job running day and night—and that varies on the work areas available. We will have anywhere from two to three crews for the remaining time."

Three courses of asphalt, totaling 15-1/4 inches, are being placed on the job. "The way we have it designed, we are using an ODOT 446, Type 1 and 2, density parameters on the warranty side with this," says Smith. "The base is 12-1/4 inches of 302 with a 58-28 liquid. The intermediate is 1-3/4 inches with a 70-22 modified, and the surface is 1-1/4 inches of 446 Type 1 with a 76-22 modified liquid.

"As far as paving and the amount of tons in any one season, this is by far the biggest job we have done in our Findlay division, which covers most of northwest Ohio," he points out. "In addition to the pavement, there is about 28,000 feet of asphalt curb on this project, which is a pretty large amount for any job."

The Shelly Co. is placing all of the asphalt, with the exception of 225,000 tons put down by subcontractor Gerken Paving Inc., Napoleon, Ohio. The contractor is running two asphalt plants—one in Forest, Ohio, on S.R. 37 and the other one in Hardin Quarry on U.S. 68.

A variety of paving equipment is being utilized. "We primarily use Caterpillar pavers, however with the amount of crews at any time on this job there can be Cats, Cedarapids and Blaw-Knox machines," says Smith. "We use a Barber-Greene SB-2500 Shuttle Buggy for the third lift of the 302 and the intermediate surface materials."

He adds, "We are using a stringline for our paver setups, trying to stretch out about 40 feet to 50 feet or more. Being spread out longer on this job, we feel that this tried and true method will give us a better ride."

The Shelly Co. anticipates that its paving operation will proceed in high gear through the end of the year. "We have made a commitment with ODOT, the project and ourselves, that anything that is lime stabilized will be covered with aggregate base," says Smith. "Anything that is covered with aggregate base will be covered with 302 material. And anything we cover with 302 will be covered with Type 2. So, with that process in effect, we should be paving until mid-November if the weather cooperates."

Mt. Carmel Stabilization Group, Mt. Carmel, Ill., is using lime kiln dust to stabilize the soils, marking the first time the product has been used in District 1. "This job was bid with a hydrate lime," says Wilson. "However, we were having problems because of the soils here (approximately 50-percent silty, sandy material and 50-percent clay). So, we proposed to ODOT to consider using kiln dust. Kiln dust has worked very well, and we are getting a soil stabilized matrix that is actually performing a lot better than the hydrate in these particular soils."

Unique And Innovative

Wilson says his company enjoys working on projects that are as challenging and fast-paced as the U.S. 30 project. "We just don't bid to bid work," he says. "We bid with purpose and try to bid jobs that are unique and allow for innovation."

"We like to work smarter," he continues. "We do a lot of hard physical work to give the owner the value, but we also like to use our head. One of the value-added things we have done was the lime kiln dust stabilization—we were able to achieve the end result for ODOT at a better price. We also gave them value engineering on changing sod to erosion control blankets, and we were able to build and open the S.R. 37 overhead about 64 days earlier than scheduled."

E.S. Wagner Co. used innovative construction for a concrete slab deck and ditch relocation project. Flat Branch Creek was designed as a reinforced concrete slab deck. According to District 1, this type of deck is generally built on a false steel and wood decking and stripped out later. However, E.S. Wagner Co. poured this deck on the plywood placed on the ground and dug the dirt from under the bridge, saving money and many workdays. "It was the first time we had seen it done in this district," Murphy says. "It was neat to see."

The project team has embraced new technology, using a precast concrete box and pipe puller, a silt fence installer, and stakeless grade control. "We've also looked at different equipment to facilitate movement of materials in a different manner—a more expedited manner," Wilson says.

For example, E.S. Wagner Co. used a belt loader for excavation purposes. "We used it for a period of time last season," he says. "At one time, we were moving in excess of 30,000 yards a day, all spreads combined."

The Participants

Formal partnering is being used on the project. District 1 and the joint-venture team have coordinated their activities with local officials and area residents to make the project a reality.

District 1 and project team representatives communicate with each other daily. "This is a good project to work on because a lot of us have worked together before," Smith says. "That helps make communication a lot easier."

Scott Mullins, P.E., is an important member of the project team for ODOT District 1. As a project engineer, he is responsible for overseeing construction of all the bridges and structures. Tim Burkepile, P.E., is assistant construction engineer. Al Cox, a 34-year ODOT veteran, is overseeing the field operation for the state. "He sees things two weeks down the line, saving us a lot of time and money," Murphy says.

Key members of the Wagner/Shelly joint venture are Todd Thatcher, field supervisor for E.S. Wagner Co., and Kirk Bostelman, project manager for The Shelly Co.

A host of subcontractors are participating in the project, including Sandusky Bay Construction Co., Armstrong Steel Erectors Inc., On-Site Stud Welding Inc., Gerken Paving Inc., Ebony Construction Co. Inc., Bowser-Morner Inc., American Painting Co. Inc., W.L. Markers Inc., Riley Contracting Inc., Hilltop Energy Inc., DOT Diamond Core Drilling Inc., Deitering Landscaping Inc., Oglesby Construction Co., Howard Concrete Pumping Co. Inc., Mt. Carmel Stabilization Group Inc., Miller Cable Co., Lake Erie Construction Co., United Rentals Highway Technologies Inc., Dynamic Currents Corp., Duffey Concrete Cutting Inc., San Jan, Fa Nye & Sons Enterprises Inc., Hite Concrete Pumping Service, United Road & Bridge Co. Inc., Thomas Grinding Inc., and Ohio Concrete Sawing & Drilling Inc.