The 1998 fiscal year saw the implementation of Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon’s Crossroads 2000 program, an effort to improve highway capital projects throughout the state. Included in the initiative are 104 projects intended to add new roads or new travel lanes to existing roads. This program aims to improve the flow of traffic by reducing congestion through increased roads and lanes of traffic. Resurfacing and repairing damaged roads does not fall under the jurisdiction of this program.
Approximately $560 million in capital highway construction funds dedicated to O’Bannon’s initiative came partly from a bonding program made possible by fee increases at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Of the $70 million distributed to various sites across the state of Indiana, $13.9 million was allocated for adding travel lanes to State Road 9 in Marion, IN. Officially dubbed the “Added Travel Lanes Project,” work began in October 1998 and wrapped up in December 1999, nearly seven months ahead of schedule. The contractor was Primco Construction Company, Ft. Wayne, IN.
INDOT Commissioner Cristine Klika said, “I am pleased to have this roadway open to the motorists of Grant County well ahead of schedule. Although favorable weather conditions did contribute to the project’s early completion, I would like to commend Primco Construction Company and INDOT crews for their hard work and dedication to finish ahead of schedule.”
The Added Travel Lanes Project consisted of adding lanes on S.R. 9 from 11th Street on the west side of Marion to just south of the S.R. 9/S.R. 37 junction in Grant County. The 4.4-kilometer (2.77 mi.) stretch of busy road through the city’s business district now has a continuous center left-turn lane and additional turn lanes at all major intersections.
Paving was completed in December 1999. Indiana Department of Transportation district construction supervisor Jim Keefer said, “The pavement was in before Christmas. The striping was done just after. Phase 2 and a bridge were completed in December.”
“We’ll come back in the spring to do some landscaping and make permanent pavement markings, but for the most part this project is completed,” said Bill Lugar, project supervisor.
Klika isn’t the only one happy to see the work finish early. The many businesses affected by construction are pleased to see the freer flow of traffic and easier access to their stores. Although two-way traffic was maintained during construction, and entrances to businesses were kept clear, slowed traffic and roadblocks always affect business to some extent, so the city is grateful that the work is completed ahead of schedule.
Keefer listed five key reasons why the project beat its Aug. 1, 2000 deadline by such a big margin:
• Primco intended to complete the paving during the ’99 season.
• The storm sewer sub work was completed during the winter of ’98-’99.
• During the peak of construction season, there were 17 different crews on the job.
• They made the most of good weather. “Drought conditions aren’t good for the farmers,” said Keefer, “but they’re good for construction. We lost only two days to weather last year.”
Of all the reasons why the job ran so smoothly, Keefer attributed the success to two key factors: the determination of the contractor and the partnering job performed by INDOT, the city and all contractors on the job.
Keefer explained that on large, difficult jobs like the Added Travel Lanes Project, a partnership is common. In this case, an outside partnering facilitator conducted meetings with the prime contractor, the subs, the utilities, INDOT and the community. “It helps communication,” Keefer explained. “It worked very well and made a big difference. It drew the community into the project and got everybody on the same side. We had a good atmosphere for discussion.”
Steve Smith, sales manager for Huntington Ready Mix, acting as the quality control/quality assurance person on the State Road 9 project, said that the partnering meetings had a profound effect on the project. “In my thirty years in this business, this was the most cooperative project I’ve ever seen,” Smith said. “I think a lot of that is due to the partnering meetings. The communication was great and we worked on problems together.”
Lugar agreed, “We got tremendous help from the city of Marion.” In recognition, the Marion Chronicle Tribune praised the progress of work on the State Road 9 Added Travel Lanes Project. Lugar added that only two complaints were received over the duration of the job, citing that as a testament to the quick and efficient work performed by INDOT and the contractors on the job.
He mentioned city engineering staff member Mike Graft as playing a crucial supportive role in the communication and development of the project. “INDOT and the contractor were instrumental in the success of the project,” he said, “especially when we had to close streets for periods of time. Everyone was very cooperative.”
The cooperation by all parties contributed to the success of the project, which Lugar admitted had some difficulties. In addition to maintaining traffic flow while work progressed crews maintained two-way traffic while the construction was under way.
Obviously, time was saved over the course of the job. Smith said the night pours were Huntington Ready Mix’s biggest advantage. “It halved our time,” he said. Pouring from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. helped crews avoid the high-density traffic of business hours and increased their productivity by allowing them to work with fewer interruptions.
Another advantage of the night pours was the cooler temperatures. With the first night pour on April 13 and the last in September, Smith’s crews were facing the hottest months of the season, so cooler temperatures at night had a positive effect on the work capacity and speed. Smith estimates that between 1,064 and 1,292 cubic metes (1,400 and 1,700 cu. yds.) were poured during the night shifts.
Perhaps the only down side for Huntington was adjusting schedules so they could take care of normal business during the day. Smith calculated that during the summer he and his crew of nine drivers, a loader/operator and a utility person were working two days and two nights out of every five or six days.
It wasn’t an easy schedule to keep up with. To help facilitate a smooth and efficient work flow, Huntington set up their plant like a production plant. “It helped a lot with the night pours,” said Smith. “We patterned it after a paving plant, which you don’t see often in a ready-mix situation. But it worked for us on this job.”
“It was unusual for us,” said Smith. “We’ve never done anything like this project before.” But he remains positive about their accomplishment. “I’m proud to have been a part of it. It’s a good road and should last a long time.”
More than just the end result, however, Smith and everyone else involved in the Added Travel Lanes Project seem to appreciate the amount of teamwork, cooperation and communication that existed during this job. “The teamwork made it successful. And we proved to ourselves that some things are do-able that we didn’t think were before. We gained a lot of wisdom during this project,” said Smith.
Smith credits Primco for much of that. “Primco has a young crew with a lot of optimism,” he continued. “They accepted some pretty big challenges and said, ’let’s give it a shot.’ They believed it was do-able, and we found out they were right.”