On a recent ride down Interstate 95 southbound in Springfield, Virginia Dept. of Transportation spokesman Steve Titunik's vehicle passed through the tangle of looping overpasses and underpasses that connect with I—495 and I—395. A tractor—trailer loomed abruptly up from the merging I—495 Capital Beltway lane, inches from Titunik's vehicle. "That's what this project is going to fix," Titunik said.

(Photo courtesy of the HNTB Corp.)

The project, named the Mixing Bowl for its loopy geometry, has been no picnic for its contractors, designers and the financially strapped VDOT. But VDOT officials and the Mixing Bowl's engineers and contractors are valiantly pushing ahead with the work of overcoming more down—to—earth, nuts and bolts challenges on the job.

"This is the longest, most challenging project in my career," says Larry Cloyed, VDOT assistant resident engineer. He maintains that some of the reported bump—up in the project's overall cost to about $650 million is a natural result of adjusted rates for inflation and uncertainty of initial engineering estimates. Also, a $28—million congestion management program developed as the project matured added to the original estimate–a program VDOT considers well worth the money. Cloyed concedes that setbacks in ongoing contracts "have an overall impact on the budget–potentially significant." Officials remain optimistic that the megaproject will be completed in 2007 for a total of eight years, not 14 as originally envisioned.

ACTIVE Work must not interfere with 4000,000 daily vehicles. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation)

The Mixing Bowl is one of Virginia's few major highway projects that have pushed onward despite state budget woes that temporarily froze some jobs (ENR 4/8 p. 16). Others include the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, embroiled in a bidding drama, and several notable ones in Richmond (see accompanying sidebars). But the Mixing Bowl felt some budget impact. Jorge Martinez, project manager for Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., VDOT's construction inspector, says that Bechtel's part of that work force decreased from 70% to 20%, leaving the core field presence to Bechtel's joint—venture partner, The Dewberry Cos., Fairfax, Va. "We've reduced our presence in the field and focus more on controls, claims and litigation," he says.

Every day, 430,000 vehicles pass through the Springfield Interchange, where I—95, 395 and 495 come together. Studies showed the interchange logged 179 accidents in a two—year period, making it the most dangerous spot on the 64—mile Capital Beltway. The project will add about 50 new bridges and widen I—95 to 24 lanes in that stretch.

HNTB Corp, Kansas City, started preliminary design in 1993, says Paul Templeton, HNTB chief of highway design. "We had 12 concepts" for what to do with the route in the beginning, he recalls. Suggestions included sinking I—95 underground, reminiscent of the Boston Central/Artery project. "This [chosen design] was No. 12," he says. The mission is to eliminate the weaves with improved local roads, high—occupancy vehicle lanes and improved ramps. "It's like building three projects in one," within existing right—of—way, he says.

Martinez notes that the controversial project received lots of "doom and gloom" media coverage. Templeton concurs, saying "the first predictions were that traffic was going to collapse" as the first two major contracts of the seven—step program began in 1999. Those contracts, awarded to Shirley Contracting Corp., Lorton, Va., for a total of $90 million, entailed building 15 new bridges and widening four miles of arterial roads at I—95's intersection with Route 644, just south of the I—95/395/295 interchange. Shirley completed the work nearly a year ahead of schedule, netting a $10—million bonus, and now is working on Phase 4 (ENR 5/14/01 p. 14).

VDOT has been tackling the doom and gloom with an extensive outreach program–a Website (www.springfieldinterchange.com), newsletters, a hotline and a well—visited project store in the Springfield mall. Titunik says he receives an average of 30 calls a day and has gotten "thousands of e—mails."

FLYOVER New ramps will ease interchange transitions. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation/Tom Saunders)

But delays and cost increases on Phases 4 and 5 due to obstacles such as an abutting railroad, site conditions and design disputes may push back the sixth and seventh contracts from their scheduled bid dates this summer. Cloyed notes that Phases 4 and 5 were at one point made a single contract in order to speed up the project. They were split again in order to control the costs and scope, but complications ensued. About 1,900 ft of sewer line overlaps with the $57—million Phase 5, where Lane Construction, Meriden, Conn., is working. When the one contract was split into Phases 4 and 5, "it forced Lane to start work wherever Shirley wasn't going to be," says Cloyed. "But the sewer segment was not on Shirley's critical path."

VDOT paid for extra shoring formwork for Shirley, which brought in a subcontractor to work on the sewer. The fix added $90,000 and four months to the Mixing Bowl program.

Also, "we were not particularly successful on these contracts using the A+B method" of company selection, says Cloyed. "To best serve the owner, one must be fairly sure there is minimal risk...we hadn't foreseen some of these issues."

Shirley is 60% complete on the $117.2—million Phase 4 contract, after a November 2000 start, says Chuck Smith, Shirley contract manager. "Demolition has begun in preparation for a key 4,400—ft bridge made of steel beams, on average 125 ft long and resting on caissons up to 40 ft deep, that will carry westbound I—495 traffic into I—95 southbound. But the piers abut active tracks carrying 100 trains daily, and Shirley is dealing with a moving five—hour window of availability that now has shrunk to three. Discussions continue with railroad companies.

RAIL TROUBLE Active tracks posed challenge to contractor. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation/Tom Saunders)

About 150,000 cu m of unstable clay was hauled out and 300,000 cu m of fill brought in. Mechanically stabilized earthwalls reach as high as 70 ft and cover 14,000 sq m. Shirley also is using drilled piles and tiebacks with cast—in—place paneling, while avoiding sensitive woodlands that limit excavation.

"We had some disputes [with designers] over what the wind load force was on the tiebacks and how deep the foundations should go," says Smith. "They agreed to move the soundwalls behind the retaining wall" rather than mounted on top, he adds. A lack of room for threaded rod required a second row of tiebacks, adding to delays. For some soundwalls, VDOT is using "whisper walls," an 11—year—old system utilizing recycled rubber tire chips, supplied by Concrete Precast Systems, Va.

Cloyed estimates that Phases 6 and 7, worth some $90 million to $120 million of work, will be bid in early 2003 instead of this summer–still enough time to make a 2007 completion.

Pocahontas Parkway Evokes–and Makes–a Bit of History

Traveling between richmond's southern and eastern counties used to require skirting a wide valley that separated Interstate 95 on the west and I—295, a north—south connector to Richmond Airport, on the east. But the new east—west Route 895 is about to cut that time in half.

"It was a 23—minute ride to go 500 ft before," observes Jeff Caldwell, Virginia Dept. of Transportation spokesman. "This splits the river crossing length by a half." With 895, drivers have a direct route between Chesterfield County, eight miles south of Richmond, and Henrico County across the James River.

Parkways version of the James River Bridge. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation/Tom Saunders)

An innovative effort by VDOT and a joint venture also slashed the time it would have taken to build Route 895, officially dubbed the Pocahontas Parkway, by some 15 years under a normal budget process. While VDOT has faced criticism, shrinking budgets and now new leadership, its conception of the state's Public—Private Transportation Act has resulted in the successful completion of a crucial capital city connector.

Most of the parkway will be open on schedule May 20, with some of the eastbound bridges due to open a month late and the westbound bridges due to open about six months behind last month's original completion date. Some of the liquidated damages of $25,500 a day will end up being assessed. But "even late, it's less than 50 months, where if VDOT had done it traditionally, it would be 72 to 84 months," says Herb Morgan, president of FD/MK LLC, a firm created by Fluor Daniel and Morrison Knudsen (now Washington Group), which is the private—sector owner/partner with VDOT.

The large constructors previously had teamed up on Denver's E—470 toll road, and brought that experience east, where Fluor Daniel took the lead. "We're our own entity," says Morgan. "We have our own books, and our own bills." Once the Virginia legislature passed the PPTA in 1995, FD/MK promptly put in a proposal for Route 895. Three years of financial and contractual negotiations passed before the first concrete was poured. FD/MK took care of all environmental permits, rights of way and utility issues. "The state had one guy," notes Morgan. "Its only investment is $9 million for environmental impact study and an $18 million State Infrastructure Bank loan, which was paid back."

In all, $27 million of the $324 million project cost came from public funds and FD/MK sold bonds for the rest. It has 28 years to pay back the bonds and the contractor also is providing a five—year warranty on the road.

FD/MK reduced environmental impact from 40 to 32 acres, built 70 new acres of wetlands and preserved another 181 acres.

The contracting team is led by a joint venture of Miami—based Recchi America Inc. and Glen Burnie, Md.—based McClean Contracting Co. for bridges and Lynchburg, Va—based W.C. English Construction for highway work. They must navigate a maze of utility work including dealing with power lines and petroleum pipelines, plus a plume of contaminated groundwater. They also are rebuilding three utility towers and lowering them by 20 ft to remove them from airspace for the nearby airport. In all, utility issues cost approximately $9.5 million, says Morgan.

Among the 8.8—mile connector's 15 new bridges, the queen is a 4,765—ft—long, balanced cantilever river crossing that boasts North America's third—longest cast—in—place structure–a 673—ft clear span. This $110—million section of the parkway was a design—build contract, says Fred Parkinson, project manager for designer Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York City. The high clearance of 150 ft was due to Port of Richmond marine traffic.

The precast dual box girders weigh 35 tons each, with pier segments up to 60 tons. The hollow trapezoidal girders, at 41—ft depths, rest on 20—ft—dia caissons socketed 5 m into rock. Some 1,600 precast approach spans are tapered to match the curving ramps. Curves can reach up to 350 ft in radii. A new mass concrete mix was devised for the pours, reaching 4,350 psi. It may be used on other projects.

There are 8,000 cu yd of concrete in each of the two foundations, plus 2,500 tons of rebar, says Dave Wesson, VDOT project manager. Adds Parkinson, "They could hold up an aircraft carrier."

A smaller bridge, named after local Civil War hero Powhatan Beaty, required a 33—ft cut on a job that is mostly fill, says Wesson. Since that took it below a water table about 20 ft deep, crews built an underdrain system there.

The new four—lane highway, which will sport 240,000 tons of asphalt paving, is expected to carry 24,000 daily vehicles initially, with an eventual ramp—up to 50,000. Drivers will pass through a shiny new toll plaza equipped with Smart Tag technology that will automatically send speeding fines to any vehicle passing through at more than 55 mph. FD/MK helped push the idea of a $1.50 tolled connector, with a public awareness campaign explaining that savings will occur in distance as well as time–up to 8 miles. As for public—private financing, VDOT's Wesson notes that, ideally, "we'd never go back to a conventional type of project."

Interstate 95's James River Bridge Boasts Big Concrete Units

Many bridges cross the james river in virginia and several of them are simply called "James River Bridge." But the new twin—structure, mile—long bridge carrying Interstate 95 commuters north into downtown Richmond boasts the largest concrete units.

Archer Western Contractors Ltd., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., had a simple, but Herculean, task: replace a bridge span a night. This meant positioning two cranes on the existing bridge to hold old sections in place while cutting the span away. Then the cranes lifted a precast concrete unit (PCU) averaging 88 ft long, 23 ft wide and 120 tons into place with a 2—in. tolerance.

Precast concrete units come in big packages. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation/Tom Saunders)

The crew had 11 hours each night to get the PCU installed or face a minimum fine of $5,000 for every 15 minutes past 6 a.m., notes Michael Schwartz, VDOT project engineer. The delays happened twice. "One time they were there after 6:30," he says. But crews hit the learning curve in a hurry; by the end of the job they trimmed the process down to seven hours. Early completion bonuses for the June deadline could make up for the fines, Schwartz adds.

There are always some complications that weren't expected," says Bob Lofling, project manager for Archer Western. For example, in an old truss section, bolts unexpectedly threaded into concrete made the old bridge sections harder to lift.

VDOT could not afford a total replacement of the 1950s—era bridge, which was designed to carry 45,000 vehicles daily but now carries triple that amount. Designer URS Corp., San Francisco, determined the most economical option was to repair the substructure and replace the 102 spans.

Archer Western won the A+B contract by bidding for a 179—night schedule rather than 208. The contractor had worked with Pasadena, Calif.—based Parsons Corp.'s bridge division on modification of new bridge segments. "The original contract plan was to come in and set things down in form, and cast—in—place the longitudinal joints," says Jim Bergeron, Parsons regional bridge engineer. "We designed a match—cast option....They can post—tension laterally with no cast—in—place work." The team also saved time by increasing the size of the PCUs, reducing the number of installations.

Archer Western began precasting the spans in 2000 just south of the site, matched them longitudinally and erected them side by side to make up the full width of the span. "We were casting two segments a week in a 24—hour operation," says Schwartz. Around 7 p.m., a segment was taken to the site. Then, two or three old bridge segments were cut out. By 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., the crew could drop in the new pieces with no pouring needed.

     Schwartz says VDOT has 11 other bridges that might undergo the match—cast PCU method.

A Warrantied Highway Unfolds Swiftly in Richmond

Route 383 piers grow fast under design—build. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation)

"The easiest way to tell if we're on schedule is that if you call this number next summer and someone besides me answers the phone, we're not doing so good," jokes Jim Ewart, project manager for the joint venture of Koch Performance Roads, Wichita, and APAC—VA, Richmond. But so far all looks well: The $236—million design—build project to build a 17.5—mile extension of Route 288 extending west and north on the outskirts of downtown Richmond is more than half—done with less than half the 29—month schedule passed and zero injuries to boot. That's good news for a team with $25,000 a day in potential late completion fines.

Koch/APAC's team is leading 69 contractors on the job, which includes 25 bridges, $40 million in storm drainage and 116 wetland sites. Koch is providing a 20—year warranty to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation for road maintenance and APAC assumes responsibility for the wetland permits. The team originally submitted a proposal in 1999, with the contractual risks resting on VDOT. "We opened our arms and said, ‘Give us the risk,'" says Ewart.

Highway crosses virgin land. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation)

The third contract to be let under the Public—Private Transportation Act, this portion of Route 288 completes a highway belt circling Richmond and dissected at the north and south edges by I—95. It would not otherwise have been done until 2006, says Kent Heppe, project manager for CH2M Hill Cos., Denver, subcontractor to APAC. "This will save $47 million and three years," he adds. CH2M Hill leads a design team including Earth Tech, HDR Inc., Triplett—King and Reid Structures, among others, and provides quality control.

There are seven interchanges, one sporting an 80—ft—high, mechanically stabilized wall abutment to shorten ramps over I—64, says Heppe. The crown jewel is a bridge over the James River being built by Traylor Bros. Inc., Evansville, Ind., in a subcontract to Chester, S.C.—based United Contractors. The bridge sits on shafts drilled to 40 ft deep and stretches 3,500 ft long and 50 ft high over the 200—ft—wide river. The $31—million structure, a combination of prestressed concrete and steel girders, is months ahead of schedule, says Ewart.

The north bank of the site is abutted by railroad tracks and an overhead platform protects an historic granite arch culvert from cranes. On the other side of the river lies an archeological dig. Further south, graves are being exhumed to make way for the route, says Heppe. Extreme variance in soil conditions and "more stormwater ponds than on any other job in my life," added to the challenges, says Ewart.