II in One Contractors Inc.

Construction of the Deep Tunnel system in Chicago has been ongoing for more than 30 years. A project of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the 130-mile network of tunnels acts as a reservoir to divert stormwater from spilling into rivers and lakes during heavy rainstorms.

The concrete for a new portion of that system is being poured by II in One Contractors Inc. in rock 220 to 260 feet deep. This challenging work involves installing rebar, pouring concrete and placing precast at those depths in tunnels from 7 to 15 feet in finished diameter. “The work we’re doing in some respects is traditional concrete work, but in a different environment,” President and Partner Bob McGee points out. “Certainly the environment is a lot more challenging and much more hazardous. You have to continuously monitor the air quality. It’s a very wet environment, so it’s ‘raining’ all the time. Water is dropping on you all the time when you’re working, and you have very limited access.

“So everything you’re doing is in tight quarters,” he explains. “Everything is vertical in terms of lifting everything with your crane in a limited location. It requires a lot more planning, and you can’t do things nearly as swiftly as you can when you’re working on the surface.” Fortunately, II in One Contractors has experience in working in such environments – this is the fourth Deep Tunnel project the company has done since its founding in 1984.

Safety Underground

McGee’s employees have general construction experience with concrete, enhanced by specialized safety training for the underground environment. “While it’s a very different environment, it’s fundamentally the same kind of work that we do as concrete construction,” he points out. “For us, the biggest difference is the environment, not the actual work that we’re doing. So you do need experienced people that can see and make the adjustment to be able to be effective in this environment. There is special safety orientation and training, but it’s fundamentally the same – it’s still concrete construction for us.”

That safety training for the 150 carpenters, laborers and operating engineers on the work crew is being provided by the general manager of the project for which II in One Contractors is a subcontractor – Kenny Construction, Northbrook, Ill. “Kenny has a whole safety organization – they have safety officers assigned to each shift when they’re working multiple shifts,” McGee notes. “So corporate safety people are also onsite full-time. Safety people are on every shift, and then we also have our own corporate safety officer who works really closely with our superintendent and our own foreman. Our corporate safety people cover our whole company.”

Aging Infrastructure

For the project extending under 39th St. in Chicago, an old brick sewer 20 feet in diameter and possibly up to 100 years old is being replaced with a new sewer tunnel of the same diameter that is being built approximately 260 feet deep. “That old sewer services so large of an area that they needed to create a temporary bypass to even work on it,” McGee points out.

A network of drop shafts at six locations from Lake Michigan along 39th Street to Racine Avenue will divert water from the old tunnel to the new one. “Kenny Construction did the drilling, blasting, shooting and mining,” McGee reports. “Our work has been setting the precast and doing poured-in-place reinforced concrete.”

II in One Contractors is doing the rebar installation for the boots and the exit conduit, which is a tunnel at the same elevation as the main tunnel. “It comes off of the drop shaft that connects the upper level sewers to the tunnel itself,” McGee explains. “They don’t come in right on top of the tunnel – they come in on an offset. You have a shaft, then you have a horizontal tunnel that leads into the main tunnel. So the flow from the upper level sewers doesn’t drop in the center of the tunnel shaft itself.” Kenny Construction is doing the concrete for that section.

Rebar and Precast

The project started two years ago, but II in One Contractors began its portion of the project in spring 2011 and is scheduled to complete it in spring 2012. “Once they finished the mining of the tunnel and after they did the mining of the main tunnel, then we started on our work in tying rebar in the existing conduits and all our surface work starting with the precast and building the structure,” McGee explains.

II in One also is placing precast pipe in vertical shafts 150 feet long. “To create the actual finished shaft, we place precast pipe vertically in the shaft and pour concrete behind it,” McGee continues. “So we set the vertical precast and place the concrete behind that to create the finished shaft. Once we complete the precast and grouting of that precast activity, then there’s a structure – it’s called a rollover structure – that comes off of the top of the shaft that would tie into an upper level conduit.”

The conduit ties into another structure that connects to the upper-level sewer. “This allows you to divert the waste from that sewer into the entrance conduit to the tunnel,” McGee notes. “We’re building the infrastructure and the entrance conduit as well as the connecting structures – all the upper level work – which is 30 to 40 feet underground in a sheeted and shored excavation.”

Most people do not realize the amount of work that may lie under their feet. “We will build a million-dollar structure anywhere from 40 to 60 feet underground, and when we finish, all you’ll see is a manhole cover,” McGee marvels. “We did $1 million to $2 million worth of work in that location, and all you see is a cover. Sometimes it could be a standard size. In the case of a vent over a shaft, it could be 7 or 8 feet in diameter. You’ll see them in parkways, streets and places like that. They’re not very noticeable unless you’re knowledgeable.”

Above Ground

II in One Contractors also is building projects above ground. Several of the ones nearing completion follow. At 62nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago, the company is excavating the site, pouring the concrete and installing the masonry for a new three-story housing project. The company also is doing the site work, excavation and installing all the concrete for a series of town houses and a nine-story residential building on Division Street at Larrabee Avenue.

At Larrabee Avenue and Oak Street in Chicago, II in One has completed approximately 85 percent of the concrete for an eight-story building called Parkside Cabrini Green at the site of a public housing development.

At 57th Street and Cottage Grove Avenues in Chicago, II in One in partnership with James McHugh Construction Co., Chicago, performed the concrete for a new hospital at the University of Chicago. In a joint venture with Walsh Construction, Chicago, II in One will build two reservoirs for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago at the Thornton quarry southwest of Chicago.

II in One also installs reinforcing steel for bridge contractors and rebar for a variety of major general contractors. The company works mostly in the Chicago area, although it has done work in Milwaukee. Past projects to which the company has contributed include Chicago’s Millennium Park, a massive, nine-block-square collection of fountains and sculptures.

“We’re kind of a strange company,” according to McGee. “For a small company, we are incredibly diverse. We kind of go with the market opportunities that present themselves, and as it turns out right now, the majority of market opportunities are in underground work.”

Working Relationship

II in One says projects like the Deep Tunnel project require good relationships with subcontractors and vendors. The company’s key partners include O’Leary Equipment and Walsh Construction.

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