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Missouri DOT Accelerates I-44 Bridge Rehabilitation with Innovative Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project

by: Debra Wood
ESS crews lift a bridge beam into place on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
ESS crews lift a bridge beam into place on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
A Link-Belt crane lifts a bridge beam into place as part of MoDOT’s I-44 Corridor Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
A Link-Belt crane lifts a bridge beam into place as part of MoDOT’s I-44 Corridor Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
A beam is lifted into place on an I-44 bridge. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
A beam is lifted into place on an I-44 bridge. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
Construction crews lift a beam into place on a bridge over I-44. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
Construction crews lift a beam into place on a bridge over I-44. (Photo courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons)
A bridge is paved in Lawrence County as part of MoDOT’s I-44 Corridor Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
A bridge is paved in Lawrence County as part of MoDOT’s I-44 Corridor Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Crews work on the rebar along the Missouri Route 66 bridge over I-44 east of Joplin. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Crews work on the rebar along the Missouri Route 66 bridge over I-44 east of Joplin. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Rebar awaits concrete on one of the bridge decks on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Rebar awaits concrete on one of the bridge decks on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Bridge beams are connected on an interstate structure on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Bridge beams are connected on an interstate structure on the Missouri Route 174 bridge over I-44 west of Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Over I-44 east of Joplin, construction crews work on the deck of the Missouri Route 66 bridge. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Over I-44 east of Joplin, construction crews work on the deck of the Missouri Route 66 bridge. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)
Facing multiple bridges in need of repair or replacement along the Interstate 44 corridor, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) bundled 25 of them and awarded the work as a design-build contract.

“It’s a good way to go to get a lot of bridges done quickly,” said Laurel A. McKean, Assistant District Engineer and Director of the I-44 Corridor Bridge Bundle Design-Build Project for MoDOT. “In our district, the bridges are more pressing than our roadways.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 840 of Missouri’s 10,400 bridges are rated as being in poor condition. The work aims to improve safety, with wider and newer bridges. The interstate bridges in the bundle had required frequent repairs and patching.

McKean said that the department opted for design build, because the Southwest District has had several successful design-build projects. Statewide, two bridge bundles were efficiently completed using the delivery method.

“With design-build, you can get more projects done,” McKean said. “You can design as you go. One contractor manages multiple bridges.”

Being responsible for executing the work, the contractor can ensure not to disrupt traffic on a bypass route when working on the interstate.

“We could get more bridges done, more cost-effectively than if we tried to do them each individually,” McKean said.

MoDOT selected employee-owned Emery Sapp & Sons (ESS) of Columbia, Missouri, in association with Parsons Transportation of St. Louis for this design-build project. Work began in the spring of 2022. According to McKean, the team developed some innovative traffic planning.

“The design-build process allows the contractor to determine what is most efficient to build, knowing what we can truly accomplish within the budget,” said Dan Hoyt, Project Manager at ESS.

The $43.2 million project was funded with federal and state dollars.

“We have had a good project, and it was definitely teamwork between us and ESS and Parsons,” McKean said. “That partnership is critical on these design-build projects.”

Diverse Solutions for Diverse Bridges
The Southwest District Bridge Engineer evaluated fair or poor condition bridges and developed a list of 25 for the bundle. It included bridges 15 miles north or south of I-44. Seven of the bridges are on I-44, five are over I-44, and the remaining are on adjacent routes.

“We had one season where we committed to doing the I-44 mainline work,” Hoyt said.

Nine bridges will be rehabilitated and 16 replaced. They include interstate bridges and smaller rural structures, which have different standards. Traffic counts range from 400 vehicles per day on one of the rural bridges to 40,000 per day on the interstate.

“That is one of the unique challenges. We have mainline bridges, some over the interstate and a handful off of the interstate system,” McKean said.

Every bridge was designed for each specific location. The replacement bridges receive new foundations, sub- and superstructures, girders, and decks. On one of the bridges, ESS was able to replace multi-span bridges with a single-span bridge over the interstate, rather than having a column in the streambed. ESS used larger, deeper, taller girders, approximately 8 feet deep. The existing girders were 2 to 3 feet deep.

“We maximized how far we could stretch a span with those concrete girders,” Hoyt said.

In 2022, ESS completed all work in Lawrence County, replacing five bridges and rehabilitating four others.

Challenging Year Brings Seven New Bridges
Work in 2023 focused on the seven mainline I-44 bridges. Two bridges on I-44 eastbound and westbound over Freistatt Branch — located west of Mount Vernon in Lawrence County — received rehabilitation work, consisting of repairs to the concrete deck, abutments, and girders; repainting the superstructure; and applying latex and epoxy overlays to help the pavement deal with salt used in the winter and protect the patches applied during rehabilitation.

“They came in, took out the bad spots, and put in a new surface,” McKean said.

MoDOT allowed ESS to leave just one lane open, because it was a shorter duration as a rehabilitation rather than a replacement. The team used message boards and signs and rumble strips to alert drivers to the construction site. Some backups occurred.

In Greene County, crews replaced the westbound I-44 bridge over Pickerel Creek. The bridge received a new foundation, columns, concrete girders, and concrete deck. MoDOT had replaced the eastbound bridge a couple of years before. It was built wide enough to put westbound traffic on the eastbound bridge during this reconstruction.

Four bridges were in Webster County, in an area with inclines and valleys and heavy truck traffic. For safety, MoDOT required ESS to always keep two lanes of traffic open on the interstate. On the smaller rural bridges, the structures were closed to traffic while the work took place.

At the East Fork Niangua River, just north of Marshfield, crews completely replaced the eastbound and westbound bridges on I-44. The bridges have new foundations, columns, concrete I-girders, and concrete decks.

“They used the beam launcher to erect the girders in because they were so long and heavy,” McKean said. “It worked well.”

ESS split the traffic, with one lane of head-to-head going westbound and eastbound. McKean said it would have been too hard to shift traffic due to the large median at that location.

Crews also replaced the eastbound and westbound bridges over Sarah Branch, about 1.5 miles north of the Niangua River bridges. ESS was able to make this a single-span bridge with concrete girders.

“We were able to have some design efficiencies,” Hoyt said.

They used crossovers, built one side, and then the other side. On that bridge, crews built a temporary bridge in the median to carry the traffic. That bridge will stay, as MoDOT has plans to widen the road in the future depending on funding.

“We had to get pretty creative in how we were going to maintain two lanes at all times,” Hoyt said.

ESS completed the interstate bridges in 2023. “I am proud of what we accomplished in the time we had to accomplish it in,” Hoyt said.

McKean considered this the “most challenging year, and we knew it would be. I am glad this year is done.”

Seven bridges remain to be replaced in 2024, none on the interstate. Most are in rural areas. ESS remains on track to complete the bridge bundle on or before September 30, 2024.

“I am proud of how our teams came together,” McKean said. “We really worked as partners to put the best product and the safety of the public first.”

Missouri DOT’s 25-Bridge Bundle
Dallas County

  • Route M over Niangua Branch - replacement in 2024

Greene County

  • Routes K/PP over I-44 - replacement in 2024
  • I-44 WB over Pickerel Creek - replacement in 2023

Jasper County

  • Route 66/Loop 44 over I-44 - rehabilitation in 2023

Lawrence County

  • Route 97 over North White Oak Creek - replacement in 2022
  • Route 97 over Dry Branch - replacement of box culvert in 2022
  • Route 97 over Wilder Branch - replacement of box culvert in 2022
  • Route 37 over Dry Branch - replacement in 2022
  • Route 97 over South White Oak Creek - replacement of box culvert in 2022
  • Route 39 over Truitt Creek - replacement in 2024
  • Route 96 over Johnson Creek - replacement of superstructure in 2022
  • Route 96 over Turnback Creek - replacement of superstructure in 2022
  • Route M over Turnback Creek - replacement in 2023
  • Route V over Williams Creek - replacement of superstructure in 2022
  • Route 39 over Honey Creek - replacement in 2024
  • Route 174 over I-44 - replacement of superstructure in 2022
  • Country Road 1100 over I-44 - replacement of superstructure in 2024
  • I-44 EB and WB over Freistatt Branch - rehabilitation in 2023

Webster County

  • Route W over Tributary of Givins Creek - replacement of box culvert in 2024
  • Route B over I-44 - replacement of superstructure in 2024
  • I-44 EB and WB over Sarah Branch - replacement in 2023
  • I-44 EB and WB over East Fork Niangua River - replacement in 2023
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