Milestone Contractors

As part of Gov. Mitch Daniel’s Major Moves road construction program, the Indiana Department of Trans­portation (INDOT) has embarked on the first phase of a $434 million, multi-year reconstruction project that will alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety and enhance mobility on the Indianapolis segment of Interstate 465.

According to INDOT, the interchange at I-465, I-69 and Binford Boulevard is among the most frequently traveled in central Indiana. More than 150,000 vehicles travel along this stretch daily but come to a near standstill during the peak evening travel period. Sections of the interstate are graded by level of service (LOS) with “A” representing the least amount of traffic congestion and “F” representing the most. At present, most sections of this interchange are rated “D” or “E” and are anticipated to operate at LOS “F” by 2031.

The I-465 Reconstruction Project encompasses eight miles of I-465, from east of the US-31 interchange to north of Fall Creek Road, as well as more than two miles of I-69, crossing over 82nd Street and ending south of the 96th Street interchange. When the entire project is completed, I-465 will have four lanes in each direction, as well as a continuous auxiliary lane for entering and exiting the interstate; I-69 will feature four lanes in each direction and three collector/distributor lanes from I-465 to the 82nd Street interchange.

The first segment undergoing reconstruction is 3.5 miles of I-465 running from Meridian Street/US-31 to Allisonville Road. Indianapolis-based heavy highway construction firm Milestone Contractors was awarded a $73 million contract to complete the work, which includes the removal and replacement of 12 bridges – two of which will be replaced by a pedestrian tunnel underneath the interstate – and the conversion of three lanes into four lanes, plus the auxiliary lane.

Eight-Month Timeline

Construction began Nov. 23, 2009, and has a substantial completion date slated for Nov. 21, 2010. Crews will have until June 30, 2011, to complete miscellaneous cleanup, landscaping, etc. According to Scott Cornelius, project manager with Milestone Contractors, the majority of the work must be done between March and November 2010, which allows the company and its subcontractors only eight months to complete $73 million worth of construction.

The contract had winter work restrictions in that the only thing crews could do on the mainline before March 1 was preliminary or preparation work in an effort to impact the traveling public as little as possible, Cornelius explains. “This is considered, by all accounts, to be a very fast-paced project,” he says. What’s more, Milestone’s preliminary work – which included strengthening existing shoulder pavements – required the company to pave throughout the winter months, “when we would typically shut down,” he adds.

In addition to the preliminary stage, Milestone divided its work into three phases, “with very aggressive schedules for each,” Cornelius says. “We’re utilizing several quality subcontractors to complete the work, working extended hours and multiple shifts for 24 hours a day whenever possible. The job does carry a $60,000-per-day penalty for every day that we’re late from Nov. 21, but there’s also a $60,000-per-day incentive for every day we’re open before the 21st up to a maximum of 15 days. We’re striving to complete the project by Nov. 6.”

Achieving Project Goals

Aside from the tight timeframe, crews must work around heavy traffic, which makes it difficult to locate materials in and out of the work area, Cornelius says. “This project had a unique feature included in the maintenance-of-traffic plan, which was an express lane for eastbound traffic that bypassed the exist ramps and allowed a free-flowing lane for traffic,” he says. “We also have two tow trucks that are stationed on site that are positioned to be on call. Anytime something impedes the flow of traffic through the work zone, whether it is a traffic incident, breakdown or mechanical failure, we dispatch them. We utilize them daily.”

Removing the two bridges and replacing them with the pedestrian tunnel has been interesting, he adds. “We constructed a three-sided box structure under those bridges while they were still in service and then backfilled that structure,” Cornelius says. “So there was a lot of challenging low-clearance construction with the installation of piling, box sections and then placing the backfill. There is a popular pedestrian trail under the bridge, and the contract required us to maintain pedestrian traffic during the hours we weren’t working, so we built a temporary trail to bypass the work area.”

Maintaining safety for the public and the crews is critical on the project, he says. “Our company’s approach is that each employee is a safety representative and responsible for their safety and the safety of others,” Cornelius states. “Anytime we’re working in close proximity to such a high-volume stretch of interstate introduces safety concerns. Most of the time we’re separated from traffic by temporary concrete barriers, but sometimes it’s just traffic barrels. We have state police patrols on site and have reduced the speed limit to 45 mph.”

The key thing that has made this project successful so far is open communication with all parties involved. “We are using formal partnering and had a kick-off meeting with the subs prior to starting the work,” he says. “I like formal partnering because it opens up the dialogue and establishes a structured conflict-resolution process. We developed a partnering charter where we established specific goals that everyone agreed to, and we continue to hold meetings to discuss successes and failures – INDOT is involved in those, as well. The subs are all performing very well and are vital to the success of this project. I think INDOT will be happy with not only the quality product we’re giving them, but with the schedule in which we’re giving it to them.”

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