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New York State DOT Improves I-390/I-490/Route 31 Interchange with Four-Phase Reconstruction

by: Debra Wood
A deck pour takes place on a center flyover bridge on a section of the I-390 interchange reconstruction.
A deck pour takes place on a center flyover bridge on a section of the I-390 interchange reconstruction.
A deck pour takes place on a center flyover bridge on a section of the I-390 interchange reconstruction.
A deck pour takes place on a center flyover bridge on a section of the I-390 interchange reconstruction.
Completed I-390 flyover looking south
Completed I-390 flyover looking south
Bridge deck pour near common tower abutment between twin 400-foot-long bridges
Bridge deck pour near common tower abutment between twin 400-foot-long bridges
Southern flyover bridge structural steel placement
Southern flyover bridge structural steel placement
Completed Lyell Avenue reconstruction
Completed Lyell Avenue reconstruction
A summary of the improvements on the interchange
A summary of the improvements on the interchange
Southern flyover bridge and realigned interchange ramp
Southern flyover bridge and realigned interchange ramp
Congestion at the Interstate 390, Interstate 490 and Route 31 interchange prompted the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to improve operations and safety with a four-phase, $172.8 million project at the Town of Gates interchange.

“The biggest operational need for this intersection before we implemented this project was congestion,” says Christopher Reeve, Acting Regional Director for NYSDOT. “There was not a pattern of serious crashes, but there was a pattern of minor crashes because of short weaves for the Route 31 exits and the exits and on-ramps for I-490.”

About 200,000 vehicles pass through the interchange daily. The corridor connects downtown Rochester to the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport and areas west of the City of Rochester.

“At the morning and evening peaks, one minor accident brings this intersection to a crawl, increases delays and the congestion, pollution and wasted time,” Reeve says. “The biggest takeaway is that we utilized the existing interchange and added new components that have increased safety and mobility and improved the operation of the intersection.”

The project may return some financial benefits.

“Ensuring our roadways are safe and well maintained is a critical component of helping grow local economies, and this project will be a game changer for Monroe County,” said Governor Kathy Hochul at the opening of the flyover. “With this work now complete, these roadways will not only be safer and less congested, but we are also helping ensure the Finger Lakes region remains economically competitive as we continue to recover from the pandemic.”

Phasing the Project
NYSDOT had divided the project into multiple phases. All are complete. The first phase replaced the Lyell Avenue (Route 31) bridge crossing over I-390 and finished in 2018.

“That was necessary first because it widened the area we needed to install the new ramps that eliminated some of the weaves,” Reeve says.

During the second phase, the department addressed operational deficiencies with the I-390 northbound traffic patterns. This included newly reconfigured I-390 northbound ramps to Lyell Avenue.

The final two $86 million phases were completed in December 2021, with improvements on Route 31, making it a complete street, with bicycle lanes and sidewalks; an exit-only lane on I-390 for Chili Avenue; replacement of the State Route 33 (Buffalo Road) bridges over I-390 with a steel multi-girder bridge; placement of 15,000 feet of sound walls, trees and high-mast lighting; and construction of a three-bridge flyover for I-390 southbound through traffic to flow above the interchange.

“The flyover minimizes conflicts below and improves the overall efficiency of the interchange,” Reeve says.

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Cold Spring Construction of Akron, New York, received the first two design-bid-build contracts and the third and fourth design-build phases with design partner Erdman Anthony of Rochester, New York.

“We were confident in Cold Springs’ ability to build infrastructure and a quality product,” Reeve said. “They built a good team, and they ended up with the best proposal.”

Utilizing Design-Build
NYSDOT selected a design-build delivery method for the final phase to promote innovation, efficiency, and quality – and to obtain different perspectives. It also sped up the project, because with design-build, the contractor does not have to wait for a compete design to be finished before the work can began, Reeve says. The noise barriers include images evoking the history of the Rochester area, such as canal boats and lilacs.

“Cold Spring has large capabilities with its own equipment and people power that allowed them to sequence and continue with their own resources,” adds Dave Keller, an Engineer with NYSDOT Region 4.

Additionally, Cold Springs’ familiarity with the project let the team understand the challenges associated with large embankments.

“That led to increasing the bridge span lengths,” says Christopher Sichak, Lead Bridge Engineer and Northeast Transportation Bridge Manager at Erdman Anthony.

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Fully integral abutments surrounded by cast-in-place reinforced concrete surround walls and piers support a three-span 525-foot-long bridge with a concrete deck at the southern end of the flyover. Twin two-span 400-foot-long bridges to the north are supported by cast-in-place reinforced concrete abutments and piers, founded on steel H-piles extending to the bedrock below with one pier spread on bedrock.

“It’s a highly sustainable project into the future,” Sichak says. “The DOT wanted to make sure it would be resilient, and minimize future deterioration of the bridges.”

For instance, none of the bridges have deck joints, and the steel girders are protected with a metalized coating system, Sichak adds.

The new interchange features dry swales to catch runoff from the road, allowing impurities to settle out of the stormwater.

Cold Springs’ equipment included GPS technology. The company also used drones to capture photographs and other technology for surveying. Erdman Anthony developed a complex 3D CADD model and prepared the model data files for GPS equipment in the field, such as machine-control units, rovers and base stations.

Crews worked through the winter months, preparing for the upcoming construction season.

Traffic remained flowing, with the majority of closures taking place at night. Erdman Anthony drafted work-zone traffic-control drawings, identifying closures and time frames for closures, based on NYSDOT’s guidelines.

Lower traffic volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people worked from home, helped with the schedule. But the pandemic also contributed to supply and delivery issues as the economy opened up.

The project opened to traffic in September 2021, and Paul Presutti, Lead Highway and Northeast Transportation Highway Manager at Erdman Anthony, reports that “there is a noticeable increase in traffic mobility, with time savings for commuters. In addition, there appears to be a reduction in crashes within the interchange.”

“We have built a phenomenal project under difficult circumstances with COVID-19, and it was on budget and on schedule … and never slowed down,” Reeve says. “We took existing infrastructure and maximized its value by making it better. We kept what was still good and improved upon it.”

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