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E&B Paving and Indiana DOT Partner to Provide Additional Lanes for I-65

by: Mark Bird
E&B Paving adds lanes to I-65 between Seymour and Walesboro, Indiana. (Photo courtesy of E&B Paving)
E&B Paving adds lanes to I-65 between Seymour and Walesboro, Indiana. (Photo courtesy of E&B Paving)
After over two years of construction, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has completed its I-65 Southeast Indiana Project. The completion of the project means the heavily-used section of Interstate 65 between U.S. 50 in Seymour and State Road 58 in Walesboro now has three lanes of travel in each direction in Jackson and Bartholomew counties.

As INDOT Construction Director Gary Kreutzjans explains, “The project involved pavement rehabilitation for both the northbound and southbound I-65 mainline lanes and shoulders and extending the service life of bridges and small structures. Portions of the median shoulder include widening to accommodate a future lane. The project begins north of Exit 50 (US 50) to north of Exit 64 (SR 58), spanning approximately 14.25 miles – with pavement replacement and added travel lanes for a total of six lanes, three lanes in both the north and southbound directions, with approximately 3.5 miles of resurfacing from just north of SR 58 to just south of SR 46 in Columbus, Indiana.”

The widening of 18 mainline bridges and rehabilitation of nine overpass bridges also were part of the project.

“The previous pavement between U.S. 50 and SR 58 was placed in 2003,” continues Kreutzjans. “As part of the 2003 resurface contract, the northbound bridges were widened to allow for future expansion. The already-widened bridges and need for pavement replacement made the current project more cost-effective. In addition to accommodating increasing traffic volumes, the added travel lanes project has reset the service life for a large portion of the I-65 corridor.”

Trucks make up a significant portion of traffic on I-65, especially on the stretch between Louisville, Kentucky, and Indianapolis. The average daily traffic count on the southeastern Indiana section of I-65 is 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day, and is expected to reach nearly 50,000 by 2040, according to Natalie Garrett, INDOT Public Relations Director. “Heavy truck traffic accounts for close to 30 percent of daily traffic on I-65 in southeast Indiana, and that amount is expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years. Having three travel lanes in each direction will add capacity for both trucks and passenger vehicles, greatly improving safety and mobility for all motorists.”

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Garrett notes that the I-65 Southeast Indiana Project was part of Governor Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Roads plan, which in 2017 dedicated $30 billion over 20 years to improve the condition of Indiana’s existing roads and bridges, with a goal of enhancing the state’s position as a leader in freight and logistics.

E&B Paving was the state’s prime contractor for the project. E&B is a wholly owned subsidiary of Irving Materials Inc., one of the Midwest’s largest concrete, aggregate and building suppliers. Other project partners included United Consulting, S&ME Engineering, and Beam-Longest-Neff (BLN).

The project was a Design-Build-Best-Value contract, which provided opportunities for innovation and time and cost savings that are passed along to Indiana’s taxpayers, Kreutzjans points out. “This project being procured as a Design-Build-Best-Value contract allowed designers and contractors to look for innovative ideas to help construct more aspects of the contract for the same dollar amount. Design-Build-Best-Value contracts also allow contractors to have more control of the project schedule while work is in progress.”

The Design-Build-Best-Value procurement process began in summer of 2016. During the Request for Proposal process, the project scope was expanded to include a third travel lane when additional funding was identified and made available for the project. Modifications to the State Route 11 interchange near Jonesville were also added, which included reconfiguration into a double roundabout.

The total cost of the project was approximately $143 million and was made up of state and federal funds. Work began in spring of 2018 and was essentially complete in August 2020. An official ribbon cutting was held in early September.

Project Completed in Three Phases
Brandon Hardin, E&B Paving Project Manager, reports that the contract was divided into four main areas – three sections of reconstruction and one section of resurface. For each of the three sections of reconstruction, two travel lanes had to be maintained in each direction for the entire length of the project. Phase one included shoulder strengthening to shift northbound traffic onto the existing outside shoulder. During phase two, the northbound inside median and passing lane were reconstructed. Southbound traffic was shifted to the new northbound pavement, putting both directions of traffic on the northbound side during phase three, allowing crews to complete all three lanes and shoulders on southbound I-65. Finally, all traffic was shifted to the southbound side during phase four, while the two remaining travel lanes and outside shoulder on the northbound side were constructed.

Hardin comments, “The three reconstruction areas were divided to best optimize our crews. Grade/drain and concrete pavement crews could make progress in an area with long segments for efficient paving days, while bridge crews could work in an area with multiple bridges that were close together, freeing up more space for crews to work safely.

“The project was completed on-schedule. Due to the contract’s tight schedule, many activities had to happen at the same time or closely following each other. This required our crews to be much more coordinated compared to other jobs. Teamwork was key to make sure all components were moving efficiently.

“The Design-Build-Best-Value process meant that the contractor and the designer were working closely from the start, leading to more innovative solutions to components of the project plans,” he continues. “By combining an expertise of design standards and field perspective for constructability, we were able to work together to come up with the best possible solutions for the job.”

Challenges Addressed, Project Completed On-Schedule
While the project moved along smoothly and stayed on schedule, there were a few challenges. For one thing, as Garrett reports, “The project included a very extensive maintenance of traffic plan in order to keep traffic moving (two lanes in each direction) and keep construction crews safe and protected behind barrier wall.”

Hardin points out that 2018 was a record year for rainfall in the area, and the project schedule had to be accelerated and modified with unique and innovative methods where possible. “The Design-Build-Best-Value component also carried unique circumstances in coordinating with designers, reviewers, and INDOT personnel.”

In the late stages of the project, he adds, the pandemic caused some disruptions, but E&B was able to respond accordingly. “When COVID-19 caused a shortage of fly ash supply, we were able to utilize blast furnace slag in our mix designs to meet requirements.”

More I-65 Expansion Planned
Another section of expansion on I-65 is scheduled to begin next spring between SR 58 and SR 46 at Columbus, Garrett reports. “The nearly $65 million contract was awarded in October. Construction is planned to start in 2023 between S.R. 56 and S.R. 160 in Scott and Clark Counties, which is further south. Projects are also in development to expand I-65 through the entire length of the state.”
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Regarding the completion of the I-65 Southeast Indiana Project, she comments, “Increased capacity and mobility will allow motorists to reach their destinations both quickly and safely, including large trucks delivering goods and services across Indiana and beyond. The added travel lanes on this section of I-65 will accommodate existing and future freight traffic and enhance economic development opportunities along the corridor.”

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