The nearly 50-year-old I-65/I-70 North Split interchange in downtown Indianapolis is undergoing a $320 million renovation led by Superior Construction Co.
In addition to working during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public-private partnership has faced several challenges. The North Split is the second-most heavily traveled interchange — and one of the most dangerous — in Indiana. The project involves rebuilding over 50 bridge structures and associated roadway.
In order to meet these challenges, Superior’s construction team and its partners devised a design that will create a smaller footprint than the existing interchange without reducing traffic capacity and will improve safety and remove bottlenecks by eliminating the weaving sections of the existing interchange.
The project is currently ahead of schedule and within budget, according to Superior's design-build coordinator, Mohammed H. Siddiqi. Here, Construction Dive talks with Siddiqi about what still lies ahead.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What were some of the challenges of the project?
SIDDIQI: The biggest challenge by far was execution of the project through the pandemic. With over 100 design engineers working remotely and not being able to meet in person as they usually would last year was certainly of the biggest challenges for the project team.
Extensive coordination, collaboration and adapting to the new normal helped the team overcome the challenge of remote working fairly quickly.
Also, with over $300 million in construction work and an estimated 600,000 manhours of labor to be completed in less than two full construction seasons; recruiting and streamlining the supply chain was a big challenge. Superior Construction has been working very diligently over the last eight months since the public-private agreement was signed to recruit the top talent from across the nation and negotiating subcontract and purchase agreements for a variety of materials and resources.
How do you keep workers on the project safe and healthy during the pandemic?
Now that we are in the construction phase of the project, we are following extensive protocols to keep everyone safe and healthy on the project. We have a dedicated team of health and safety professionals who constantly train, monitor and provide resources to the construction crews on the project.
What do you need to take into consideration when you are shutting down roads?
A very detailed and extensive maintenance of traffic plan has been going on for the last 18 months before we begin to shut down the I-65/70 interchange later this month. Providing alternate routes, analyzing traffic volumes, installation of detour signs, public information through highway message boards and media broadcasts are all part of the pre-planning before we shut down the roads.
Superior Construction’s traffic control professionals developed an efficient sequence of execution to reduce the amount of traffic movement closures. This was a very important factor in scoring of the proposals which helped Superior Construction win this contract.
Superior’s design team maximized the use of infield empty spaces within the existing interchange so a major portion of the new interchange could be built "offline" while causing no disruption to existing traffic. The contract documents allowed for the movement of I-65 southbound to I-70 eastbound traffic to be shut down for 45 days. The team proposed to build this section of the interchange on a completely new alignment with an elevated overpass that would allow Superior to reduce the 45-day closure to a mere one-day closure during a weekend.
Most of the surveying on the project is done by utilizing the latest 3D modeling technologies available in the market including the aerial drone photogrammetry.
How is this project different from other infrastructure projects you've worked on?
The enormous volume of work to be done in a limited amount of time makes this project very unique. We will be replacing 50 bridges in a span of the next 18 to 24 months. The project will also replace more than 250,000 square yards of concrete paving and will move more than half a million cubic yards of dirt.