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Ames Construction Constructs a New Bridge as Part of 64th Avenue South Upgrades in Fargo

by: Larry Bernstein
As part of the 64th Avenue South project, Ames Construction is building a new three-lane bridge over I-29 to connect the east and west sides of Fargo.
As part of the 64th Avenue South project, Ames Construction is building a new three-lane bridge over I-29 to connect the east and west sides of Fargo.
Fargo, North Dakota, has been experiencing significant population growth. The city of Fargo is working on the 64th Avenue South construction project in response to the increase in traffic. The project aims to improve system linkage to allow for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. The two-phase project will enable 64th Avenue South to meet the needs of the growing area. The roadway crosses over I-29, which runs through the entire state of North Dakota to the Canadian Border.

During the first phase of the project, which was completed in 2020, the team converted sections of 64th Avenue from a rural two-lane gravel roadway section to a three-lane urban concrete street. The center lane is acting as a designated left turn lane. Dakota Underground was the general contractor.

Other highlights of phase one include putting in a new box culvert, a storm sewer, and water distribution improvements. Phase one also has benefits for pedestrians. A pedestrian tunnel was installed, and shared use pedestrian paths were added on both sides of 64th Avenue with updated street lighting.

Phase two began in the spring of 2021, and the general contractor is Ames Construction. Work during phase two includes some of the same elements as phase one such as installation of a sanitary sewer system, a pedestrian tunnel, shared use paths on both sides of 64th Avenue, and new street lighting.

However, the main construction element of phase two is the building of a three-lane bridge that will go over the I-29 and connect the east and west side of Fargo. It’s expected that the completely new structure will have an average daily traffic count of 18,000 vehicles.

Building Blocks
The construction team is using geofoam blocks to build the abatement. Surcharges were placed on the east and west side of the bridge. The team had to wait 180 days to make sure everything settled after the surcharges were set. Other aspects of construction were able to take place during this time.
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“There are fatty clays and fine particles in the soil area, so it takes a long time for the moisture to dissipate and for settlement to occur,” says Ben Herden, Area Project Manager for Ames Construction.

After the settlement was complete, the team removed the surcharge and installed lightweight fill geofoam blocks. The blocks were put in to reduce settlement. While other options cost less, using the geofoam blocks allowed the team to reduce construction time by one year.

Geofoam blocks were chosen for other reasons as well. The material is light, dense, and holds up well. “The city of Fargo has had good luck with this in the past, as did the DOT on another structure, so there was already a comfort level,” says Adam Walker, a Project Manager for Houston Engineering. The city of Fargo hired Houston to administer the construction of the project.

The two-span steel bridge has a single pier in the median. However, it has three sets of girders. Although this has been done before, it’s not common. It allows for future growth. “A single girder from peer to abutment makes construction more complex from delivery to setting,” Herden says. “It creates longer spans, but the three pieces make it more manageable, safer, and less expensive.”

A Good Partner
All members of the team agreed that the partnership between Ames Construction, Houston Engineering, and the city of Fargo has been easy and has helped to keep the project moving forward.

Ames has worked in Fargo in the past and has six other contracts in the area. “We have been able to collaborate with Houston and the city and have real-time coordination, which is needed to deal with all the construction going on in the area,” Herden says.

Phase two is on pace to be complete on schedule. This is due to multiple reasons. The first is good weather, which every construction project needs to be complete on time. Herden adds that ample time was built into the project schedule. “The designers and owners team developed the project with constructability in mind,” says Herden.

Dealing with supply chain issues can be a challenge. However, the Ames team changed their minimum time to secure necessary materials from three months out to six months out. This has helped stay ahead of any issues.

Finally, there have been a few change orders as part of the project. Those change orders that have proven to have been minor. Herden credits the designers for their clear drawings, which led to a limited amount of change orders.

The entire project – phase one and phase two – costs just over $25 million. Phase two alone was just under $15 million, and the team is confident the project will come in on budget.

Upon completion of the 64th Avenue South construction project, Fargo drivers will gain multiple benefits. There will be reduced traffic on secondary streets as travelers will have another option to travel from southern Fargo and northern Fargo.

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