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Staging Small, Frequently Changing Work Areas, IGE Rehabilitates Bridge and Improves Safety

by: Julie Devine
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of Logan Griesmer, IGE
Photo courtesy of WisDOT
Photo courtesy of WisDOT
For the U.S. 10/WIS 66 bridge over Interstate 39 project in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, “The big storyline was finding enough room to do the work,” said Logan Griesmer, Project Manager for General Contractor Integrity Grading & Excavating, Inc., (IGE) of Schofield, Wisconsin. “This project isn’t large in overall size, but it’s one of the busiest intersections in the area with U.S. 10 East intersecting I-39.”

Designed to address bridge deterioration and improve safety for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, the project replaced the U.S. 10/WIS 66 bridge deck and relocated the sidewalk to the bridge’s median, with 42-inch-high concrete barrier walls on both sides of the walkway. Crews also reconfigured adjacent intersections, replaced pavement on U.S. 10/WIS 66, and replaced traffic signals and street lighting. With project funding provided by state and federal dollars, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) awarded the $8.3 million, low-bid construction contract to IGE in late 2021.

Because of the area’s heavy traffic, “A full closure of the interchange wasn’t practical due to the impact on motorists and local businesses,” said Daniel Holloway, WisDOT’s Project Manager. “Staging was the only practical option. The bridge deck was poured half at a time to keep the interchange open. In addition, staging allowed pedestrian access throughout construction.”

The schedule included six main stages, with the last stage completing in spring 2023. Work for stages 1 through 5 started in April 2022 and finished in December 2022.

Across those eight months of work, “There were five main stages with 20 substages,” Griesmer said. “With the modifications, we made 29 total traffic switches in order to keep progressing. That was a huge challenge.”

Leapfrogging Traffic
The project’s traffic control measures included lane closures, lane shifts, turn restrictions, temporary signals, ramp closures, and occasional flaggers.
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Throughout the project, “We had small areas of work and a lot of jumping around,” Griesmer said. “We’d complete one area, then go down the road and do a small area, then move to the other side of the project to work on a small area over there.”

IGE laid a total of 1,200 feet of storm sewer pipe in the project footprint. However, “Our biggest run at one time was 30 or 40 feet with a couple structures,” Griesmer said. “We’d put in a structure and stub it out to a live lane of traffic 2 feet away, then flip traffic, put in another couple pieces of pipe, and pour that panel back in. It was continually leapfrogging traffic in order to keep progressing.”

Coordinating 13 subcontractors added to the project’s complexity. For many stages of work, “It started with the traffic control crew; then the saw guy; then we came in to remove, subgrade, and do any utilities; then the electrician did his work; then our pavement and concrete guys poured the curbs and asphalt,” Griesmer said. “After that, the restoration crew came in, then the traffic control guys came back to do pavement markings and adjust traffic control for the next spot we jumped to.”

Traffic shifted as often as once per week. “In our safety meetings, the biggest topic was to just be aware,” Griesmer said. “You’d get used to working in the dead lane, then the next day that lane would be open to live traffic.”

Sometimes, the traffic controls complicated worksite access.

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For instance, “There were circumstances where our truck really only needed to go across the road 50 yards to dump or pick up a load, but it took 45 minutes to get there because we had a turn lane closed and he couldn’t make a left turn,” Griesmer said. “He had to make a right turn, get completely out of our project limits to find a spot to turn around, then come back the other way because he could only make a right turn into the site.”

In addition, “The close quarters of the construction site required the contractors to be innovative in the management of materials, especially since much of the material removed was recycled and reused,” Holloway said. “Some materials, including the bridge deck sections, were partially processed immediately adjacent to the removal location, then hauled to a nearby staging area for further processing prior to reuse.”

Saving Time
To advance the work as efficiently as possible, WisDOT and IGE looked for ways to save time in the original staging plan.

“For example, stage 2 called for removing the concrete median, putting in temporary asphalt, and moving on,” Griesmer said. “We decided to completely build the subgrade to final at that point, saving us substantial time in stage 5.”

In addition, “We jumped over some stages because we realized there was non-critical work that could wait,” Griesmer said. “We focused on paving and pavement repairs in order to move traffic and advance to the next stage. In the lull periods while we waited for the critical areas to cure and get paved out, we’d fall back to the non-critical areas to fill in our work schedule.”

Another change to the original staging plan increased production and saved money by eliminating the need for borrow. “Instead of putting our excavation in a pile and waiting to place it in another stage, we took our cuts from each area and placed them immediately in fills,” Griesmer explained.

Pedestrians in the Median
Along with the improvements that increase safety for motorists, the project focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety because of the mix of residential, commercial, and shopping areas around I-39.
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“There was concern with the crosswalk on the off-ramp from I-39 southbound,” Holloway said. “The (dual) right-turn on red allowance was an issue for pedestrians and bicyclists. The new median sidewalk route avoids this high traffic volume conflict and allows a safer path across the bridge and through the interchange area.”

During the public involvement process, people favored the median sidewalk with barrier walls over other options. However, construction in the small area again required adjustments.

“Normally, our bridge subcontractor (Lunda Construction Co.) would pour their barrier wall first, then our concrete subcontractor (Trierweiler Construction and Supply Co., Inc.) would pour off the elevation of that on both sides of the bridge,” Griesmer said. “However, Trierweiler’s barrier wall equipment needed 20 feet of room to work. With the limitations of traffic, that didn’t allow us to pour as the plans originally showed.”

Instead, Lunda and Trierweiler worked together on an alternate plan. Trierweiler poured their barrier wall first on the south side – with only one lane coming across the bridge – while Lunda worked on the north side of the bridge.

“Then they flip flopped,” Griesmer said. “When Trierweiler worked on the north side, they needed traffic back on the south side so their machine would fit.”

Complicated Decking
Placing the bridge’s new epoxy-coated, bar steel reinforced concrete deck on the existing steel I-beams required additional adjustments to achieve a smooth, well-drained riding surface.
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“The bridge was (originally) constructed with a very slight longitudinal slope and a sub-standard cross slope, so maintaining or improving drainage on the bridge was difficult,” Holloway said. “To help with the cross-slope problem, the design included a crown correction. Beam heights were not changed, so haunch heights were much higher than typical in the middle portions of the bridge, which caused unique deck forming challenges.”

In addition, when crews removed the old bridge deck, the beams didn’t react as predicted, so beam deflections were re-calculated and deck forms were constructed accordingly.

As part of that process, “We milled out a portion of the deck then overlaid it,” Griesmer said. “That improved drainage but added time to our schedule.”

Due to the complications, WisDOT agreed to adjust IGE’s interim completion date for stages 1 through 5 from November 23 to December 9, 2022. The project’s final completion date remains in May 2023.

Key Project Personnel
  • Owner – Wisconsin Department of Transportation; Daniel Holloway, Project Manager
  • Project Engineer – Quest Civil Engineers, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin; Blake Elsinger, P.E.
  • General Contractor – Integrity Grading & Excavating, Inc., Schofield, Wisconsin; Logan Griesmer, Project Manager; Cody Loertscher, Foreman
  • Concrete Subcontractor – Trierweiler Construction and Supply Co., Inc., Marshfield, Wisconsin
  • Bridge Subcontractor – Lunda Construction Co., Black River Falls, Wisconsin

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