Improving Erie County's Interstate
By Scott Kulka, Vice President, Russell Standard
Russell Standard Corporation's Union City Branch eagerly took
on the challenge of prime contractor for a project on a stretch
of Interstate 79 in Northwestern Pennsylvania, which included
4.5 miles of full-depth Superpave bituminous paving on broken
concrete, extensive structure work, drainage improvements, ROW
fencing, guide rail, lighting, pavement markings and signage
improvements. The reconstructed stretch of 5½ miles of
I-79's northbound and southbound lanes running between its interchange
with I-90 to its interchange with SR20 or 26th Street in the
City of Erie, Erie County, Pennsylvania was opened to traffic
in October 2001.
This was a two-year project, with the northbound lanes being
reconstructed in 2000 and the southbound lanes being completed
in 2001. The overall price-tag was approximately $20,000,000,
which was funded with both Federal (80%) and State (20%) monies.
The roadway work initially required extensive earthwork to
lower grade at the four existing overhead structures to maintain
clearance restrictions and still allow the appropriate pavement
typical section of 16" for new construction areas. This
earthwork began with the rubblizing of the existing 10"
reinforced concrete pavement to 8" minus in gradation.
Rubblizing was specified by PENNDOT for the concrete that was
to be removed and re-used in new roadbed sections as base material.
Russell Standard Corp. then proceeded to remove the existing
pavement section and the appropriate earth to the correct elevation.
This task was complicated by the access restrictions outlined
in the contract that required the construction of haul roads
for the construction traffic on the project, which included
the asphalt paving operations. Extra effort was afforded to
separate the broken concrete from the excavated material for
re-use purposes as well. On one location, subgrade was of a
condition that required an undercut of an additional 3' to stabilize.
This area also required some drainage modifications that the
new subgrade elevation dictated.
The project was divided into sections by its different designs
therefore creating many different work areas, which progressed
independently. Some utility work also was being performed concurrently,
so coordination among the many subcontractors was critical to
the schedule of the project. Their production and efficiency
was crucial as well. Swank Associated Companies from New Kensington,
PA, had the exhausting task of completely replacing two sets
of structures. The first set spanning Walnut Creek, a single
span with spread concrete I-beams and integral abutments that
are anchored to pilings. The second set spans 32nd Street in
the city, which offered its own concerns being in a residential
neighborhood over a high volume street. This structure is a
single span adjacent concrete box beams and stub abutments.
Because of the traffic volume on 32nd Street, PENNDOT required
the beam setting to take place at night to minimize the disturbance
to the surroundings. Swank also repaired all of the projects
overhead structures' deteriorated surfaces. The bridgework was
rounded out with the overlay of a badly deteriorated deck on
the 26th Street bridge over I-79, a curved girder bridge whose
deck was deteriorated because of high reinforcing steel content.
Russell Standard Corp. undertook the chore of grinding the deck,
installing a waterproofing membrane, and placing a bituminous
overlay, which involved closing the exit ramp and a temporary
detour while the work was performed. This detour was significant
because 26th Street is a major East/West route through downtown
Erie. So, closing the exit had a major impact.
The existing concrete roadway that was not removed for new
construction was specified to be broken and seated then overlaid
with full depth Superpave asphalt pavement. Antigo performed
the breaking operation with a guillotine-style drop hammer hammer,
which broke the concrete into 24" minus size pieces. Russell
Standard Corp. then took over seating the fractured concrete
with a 50-ton proof roller and overlaying it with numerous lifts
of Superpave mixes. The final two lifts of Superpave mixes consisted
of PG76-22 asphalt binder material and required special attention
to detail in all aspects. It is a very temperature-sensitive
material that requires some additional attention for the entire
process to unfold smoothly, including the ride. Russell Standard
Corp. supplied the project from their batch plant located on
Pittsburgh Avenue in Erie. The resulting stretch of highway
boasted a noteworthy drop of International Roughness Index(IRI)
rating, which fell from >160 to 37.2.
On July 26, 2001, Russell Standard Corp. lost its President
and friend, Robert E. Everhart, in a tragic car accident. As
a tribute to his memory, the Union City branch adopted this
section of highway constructed during the course of this project
and in cooperation with PENNDOT are placing a memorial in honor
of Bob at one of the exits.
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