“This is a capacity and safety project,” says Chris Slone, Project Manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). “A lot of safety issues are related to capacity issues.”
Crash data indicates the area has experienced multiple rear-end collisions, which generally result from traffic backups.
In 2018, Kentucky’s 2018 Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow ranked the Interstate 265, Interstate 71 and Interstate 64 corridors as having significant transportation needs. The widening of I-265, with an 88,000 daily traffic volume, was ranked number 1. Although unranked, the reconstruction of the I-265/I-64 interchange carries 94,000 vehicles per day. Improvements to the I-265/I-71 interchange were ranked number 6. It carries up to 25,000 daily vehicles. And widening I-71, carrying 59,000 vehicles daily, ranked number 11 statewide.
Numerous large facilities are located in the area, including a Ford truck plant, a Kroger warehouse, the Eastpoint Business Center and Bluegrass Commerce Park. This project will ensure enough interstate capacity exists into the years ahead and aims to spur additional economic development.
The team of Hall Contracting of Louisville and American Engineers of Glasgow, Kentucky, received the design-build contract. Hall, a family-owned and -operated firm, began operations in 1954 and has grown in the southeast and midwestern United States. The Kentucky-based company also operates offices in North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Indiana.
The projects were originally separate jobs in different phases of design. The design-build team finished the designs and moved forward with construction. The team developed and are using 3D topography models for the profile milling, grading and other construction activities.
Kentucky’s design-build program offers competing bidders a stipend, and in turn, the state takes intellectual ownership of ideas and innovations proposed by other teams. The use of profile milling, often used on airport runways, was one of those ideas that paid off for this project.
“In profile milling, the machines are controlled by total stations,” Slone says. “The uploaded model will tell the machine how much to mill at a certain location, so you get more variable milling and get smoothness by taking off high spots and low spots.”
Using profile milling has saved the project 98,000 tons of asphalt. There also is a small amount of replacement concrete, especially around the bridge slabs.
The project includes widening I-265 by adding a 12-foot wide lane in each direction, bringing the number of lanes to six between KY 155 and I-71. At the I-265 interchange with I-71, crews created a collector-distributor to supplement the existing cloverleaf design. This helped to separate the mainline lanes on southbound I-71 from vehicles exiting the highway. The I-71 widening will add one lane in each direction to create six lanes from I-265 to KY 329. At the I-265/I-64 interchange, improvements include reconstructing the interchange.
At the I-265/I-64 interchange, the project will maintain the two eastbound cloverleafs. But on the westbound, crews are building new ramps to the north and south of the existing interchange and are then excavating under existing I-265 ramps to make room for new ramps, which will complete the new “partial turbine” interchange.
The team is also building a bridge over an aging structural-steel plate culvert tunnel connecting two sides of a quarry. The crews will close the tunnel and remove it from below the completed bridge.
“We’re building a bridge and then digging a hole under it,” Slone says.
The team has completed 12 of the bridge structures. The I-71 collector distributor ramp was completed and opened to traffic in January 2021. Crews have extended nine culverts and added a third lane in each direction on seven of the 22.5 miles of interstate being widened. Those new lanes are carrying traffic while the old lanes are rebuilt.
The project parameters are home to several environmental impacts, including the Indiana Brown Bat. Tree clearing can only take place from October to the first of April. The work remains within the existing right-of-way.
For the most part, no lane closures occur during peak traffic volumes. Beams were delivered during the day and lifted into place at night, with the exception of setting the beams for the bridge over the railroad, which required a daytime placement due to railroad guidelines. “We are doing our best to have the least effect on traffic,” Slone says.
The project is scheduled for completion in spring 2024. “I’m proud of how the design-build team and my team have gone through this process,” Slone concludes. “It’s a great success.”
Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet