The New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program (Widening Program) is one of the largest construction programs undertaken by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The widening program is located in central New Jersey and runs 35 miles through 11 communities and 3 counties, from Mansfield Township in Burlington County up to East Brunswick Township in Middlesex County. The project limits are from approximately two miles south of Interchange 6 up to Interchange 9. The program entails widening 35 miles of the turnpike, reconstructing 46 bridges at crossing roads and state and federal highways, rebuilding and realigning ramps at five interchanges and improving two toll plazas.
“This is a $2.5 billion program, which is fairly large, particularly for work in this region,” explains Larry Williams, the authority’s assistant chief engineer. “The budget is for the entire project, not only physical construction but also the design, management, inspection, right-of-way acquisition and utility work. It’s a very significant project.”
And it’s for a significant purpose. The frequency of episodes of traffic congestion on the turnpike has seen a steady increase. Studies show that from 2005 to 2032, population and employment in central New Jersey are expected to increase by 17.5 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively. Goods movement from Port Newark and Port Elizabeth will continue to grow, and expansions at the Port of New York/New Jersey and growth at Newark Liberty International Airport will also contribute to increasing traffic. As a result, predictions indicate that by 2032, northbound traffic volume will increase by nearly 68 percent and southbound traffic by 92 percent.
“The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is dedicated to the safe, efficient movement of people and goods over two of the busiest toll roads in America, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway,” the authority says. “Our highways are a critical link in the transportation network of the Northeastern United States and the safest, quickest and most convenient route for hundreds of thousands of commuters, truckers and recreational travelers every day.”
The turnpike was the third toll road in the nation when it opened to traffic in 1951. It currently runs 122-miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. From the southern end of the turnpike up to and through the widening project area it has one northbound and one southbound roadway, each of which are two to three lanes wide. North of the widening project area the turnpike has a “dual-dual” configuration that is comprised of two northbound roadways and two southbound roadways, with the inner roadways designated for cars only and the outer roadways available to cars and trucks.
The authority launched the widening program to address the forecasted increases in population and traffic demand. The major objectives includes improving safety and operational efficiency for those who travel on the turnpike, as well as increasing capacity and easing the traffic flow to and from the turnpike and connecting roadway systems. The program is building two new three-lane roadways to widen the turnpike mainline and extend the 12-lane dual-dual configuration from Interchange 8A south 25-miles to Interchange 6. North of Interchange 8A, the program is building one new lane on each of the existing outer roadways to complete a continuous 12-lane dual-dual section up to Interchange 9. In this area, only minimal construction is needed to widen the outer roadways since the existing overpasses are wide enough to accommodate the added lanes. The program will also relocate and expand the toll plaza and ramps at Interchange 8; widen the toll plaza at Interchange 7A; and improve connections at Interchanges 6, 7 and 8A and at service areas 6 and 7.
When the program is complete in 2014, the turnpike will have been widened to a 12-lane (6 per direction) dual-dual roadway from Interchange 6 (the connection to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Turnpike Extension / Pennsylvania Turnpike) to Interchange 9. The program will have built approximately 170 miles of travel lanes; built scores of bridges and ramps; rebuilt two toll plazas and the connections at three more; erected four miles of noise walls; installed signs and lighting; improved drainage; relocated 17 miles of major utility pipelines and the facilities of 18 local utilities; and mitigated environmental concerns through reforestation and wetland restoration.
To best manage a program of this magnitude the turnpike organized the work into eight design sections, from which 32 construction contracts were prepared for roadway and bridge construction, sign fabrication and environmental mitigation. A joint venture of AECOM, Greenman Pederson, and Parsons Brinkerhoff (AECOM/GPI/PB) is providing construction management for the widening program. In addition to their CM responsibilities, AECOM/GPI/PB also is providing construction inspection services for six of the eight design sections, with construction inspection of the remaining two sections provided by Stone and Webster and HNTB Corp.
Stone and Webster manages section four, which involves reconfiguring the Interchange 7A toll plaza to accommodate three additional lanes as well as replacing and reconfiguring ramps and improving traffic flow through the toll plaza to Interstate 195. “Section four is a three-mile length surrounding interchange 7A,” explains Peter Burd, project manager at Stone and Webster. “Our section has 13 bridges in it, and we are also widening and expanding the toll plaza at Interchange 7A which feeds into Interstate 195 – a main artery crossing the Turnpike.”
HNTB is managing section six, which is broken into five contracts. Overall, this portion involves constructing a new 10-lane Interchange 8 toll plaza and ramps on the east side of the turnpike and demolishing the old Interchange 8, which is located on the west side of the turnpike. This relocation allows the construction of a direct connection to improve access from the turnpike to State Highways Route 133 and Route 33.
“This was considered the most complex section because it not only involved buildings, but every contract associated with this section has interfacings with other contracts,” explains Antonio LaGala, field project manager with HNTB. The five contracts included :advanced grading and the completion of one bridge, the relocation of two pump stations as well as constructing a new garage and office building, the construction of the state’s first single-point urban interchange bridge (SPUI), the new toll plaza at Interchange 8 and its accompanying administrative building, and the expansion of two miles of the turnpike roadway to a dual-dual configuration.
The authority gave the green light to start construction early in the summer of 2009. On July 2, 2009, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held at Interchange 8 to kick off construction of the widening program. While the objectives of the program are straightforward – managing every aspect of the planning, design and construction – a program of this magnitude is quite a different story and requires management techniques equal to the challenge.
From the beginning, the authority’s strategy to successfully complete the widening was to recognize and prepare for its complexity. This led to the authority’s plan to organize the program into eight design sections, with each section reporting to the authority’s design management team. The scope of work contained in each of the eight design sections was then packaged into two to five construction contracts. The widening program has a total of 32 contracts, including four environmental mitigation contracts and five fabrication and miscellaneous wrap-up contracts. Of these, six contracts are substantially complete, 22 are active and four remain to be advertised, bid and awarded.
A significant challenge for the widening program is coordinating the many contractors and construction operations while maintaining traffic on the turnpike and local roads. Although the bulk of the work is for construction of new roadways on the outer portion of the right-of-way, most of the construction contracts also include demolishing and replacing bridges for local roads that cross over or under the turnpike to accommodate the widening. Coordinating the work requires careful consideration to maintain the overall construction schedule and avoid impacts to traffic on the mainline, as well as impacts to local traffic circulation.
The joint venture team of AECOM/GPI/PB also provided preconstruction services analyzing the program’s overall constructability. “We were looking at the fact that we would have 23 contracts ongoing and that once we hit the ground, they all needed to run smoothly,” explains Thomas O’Connor, project manager for AECOM/GPI/PB. “We had to make sure there were no flaws in the constructability aspect and that the contract plans were workable and when working across 35 miles of highway, we needed to make sure it was well coordinated.”
“This is a mega project, for sure,” Burd says. “One of the biggest challenges for the whole project is that we have 23 construction contracts ongoing. For all the sections to do work, we do have to close lanes on the existing turnpike and to coordinate with other sections and contractors is quite a challenge. We try to share lane closures and take advantage of those opportunities.”
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has developed strict rules and regulations to manage and maintain traffic through construction work zones. The authority uses historical traffic data to predict when traffic volumes are likely to be heavy and to set hourly limits on lane closures and full-day prohibitions limiting closures before and/or after holidays. The authority has also predetermined the start-point locations for lane closures based on sight distance criteria, as well as limits on the maximum lengths of lane closures and the minimum distances between adjacent closures. The construction management team must coordinate the construction activity of each contract in a way that complies with the traffic maintenance requirements while balancing the need to complete the project on schedule. When contractors have conflicting needs for lane closures or detours, the construction management team works with them to reschedule or re-sequence their respective construction operations without impacting the overall construction schedules.
Identifying priorities and resolving the conflicting needs is crucial. A traffic coordination team meets weekly and works continuously to facilitate this important coordination effort.
“We have to make sure everyone gets their fair share of time that is necessary to do the widening,” O’Connor explains. “Whether it’s road work, bridge erection or demolition, the contractor requires access to the turnpike itself.”
To ensure that construction work advances on schedule and within budget, the construction management team meets biweekly to review the progress of each construction contract and to resolve any safety, management coordination or constructability issues that arise. The construction management team also reviews the overall program schedule and, when necessary, prioritizes critical construction work.
Having a knowledgeable and experienced construction team has been a valuable asset to the authority. The construction management team assembled by the authority – AECOM/GPI/PB, HNTB, and Stone and Webster – is able to address issues and form solutions that can be applied uniformly across the entire program. They are seasoned, experienced senior-level professionals who are recognized in the construction industry. The wealth of knowledge that they bring to the project has been indispensable for managing this challenging project.
“We are working together as a seamless organization,” explains John Fedun, field project manager for sections three and five. “Each of the firms has specialties in different areas, and while we utilize all the expertise of each organization, we picked the best folks in each organization for each particular area. For field inspection, the staff from each different construction management firm is fully integrated. It’s absolutely seamless.”
Of course, good contractors were needed to bring to fruition all the planning and design efforts that the authority invested in the widening program. The authority says some of the finest construction companies in the New Jersey area are working on this program including South State; PKF Mark III; George Harms Construction; Union Paving and Construction; Tetra-Tech/The Delaney Group; IEW Construction Group; Ferreira Construction; Crisdel Group; Rencor; D’Annunzio and Sons; A. Servidone; B. Anthony Construction; Sordoni Construction; J. Fletcher Creamer and Son; RCC Fabricators; Lehigh Fabrication; and Central Jersey Landscaping.
The system is working because the authority has the right management tools. When the turnpike authority solicited bids for construction program management services, they specified that the successful firm must use integrated computer-based systems to compile and manage information. Managing documents on a large project like the widening program is its own unique challenge. Before the advent of digital document control systems, managing 30-plus contracts would generate a lot of paper. For the widening program, a single contract may have more than 2,000 construction drawings. The number of important documents increases exponentially when one considers all the related shop drawings, demolition plans, erection plans and other required submittals.
The AECOM/GPI/PB management team chose two key systems: FACS and iPIMS. FACS is used for data collection and project information in the field, while iPIMS provides a single sign-on interface for management that integrates FACS, Contract Manager and the Turnpike’s other cost management systems.
The FACS system is web based and used by construction inspectors and field staff via wireless internet connections. The construction contract documents, drawings, specifications, submittals and correspondence are uploaded to the system where they are always available to the field team. The inspectors take their laptops to the site where they can look up reference information and enter their daily reports, payment quantities and inspection notes. Since FACS is web-based, inspectors have access to all of the project information without the need to return to the field office. It supports timely and complete record keeping, which also can be done without leaving the work site, as well as the rapid preparation of pay estimates.
The AECOM/GPI/PB management team selected the iPIMS system to complement the FACS system and provide the authority and their management staff with the tools to manage the program. iPIMS aggregates the wealth of data gathered from FACS and the authority’s cost management systems and provides a window into every aspect of the widening construction with the convenience of single sign-on access through a web interface. iPIMS is scalable, and the collected information can be viewed through program-level or contract-level dashboards, summary reports and detailed tabulations. In addition, iPIMS can produce custom queries and reports. This capability has been useful in helping the management team to identify and isolate the occurrence of specific pay items in any or all contracts, so they can develop comprehensive solutions that are consistent throughout the widening program.
Today, all of the heavy construction contracts have been awarded for approximately $1.2 billion and the remaining contacts, valued at $45 million, will be awarded in mid-2013 and 2014. In terms of material progress, approximately 1,000 acres have been cleared; 3.75 million cubic yards of embankment have been placed; 540 thousand square feet of retaining walls have been built; 440 thousand tons of asphalt have been placed; 51 thousand cubic yards of concrete have been poured; all 17 miles of major utility pipelines have been relocated; and 31 of the 32 crossing bridges have been started and six are complete.
The widening program has now passed the mid-point of construction, and the authority is on track to complete the remaining work on time and open the new outer roadways to traffic by Memorial Day of 2014. At that time, traffic will be diverted to the outer roadways and the inner roadways will be closed for a final contract to repair and pave the inner roadways and complete the widening program, preparing the New Jersey Turnpike to handle the state’s traffic needs for the next 20 years.