Adding style to Milwaukee’s Marquette Interchange project

Case Studies
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Forms used to construct concrete parapet walls as part of the major rebuilding of downtown Milwaukee’s Marquette Interchange are also providing an element of style. By adding a special facade feature to its standard contoured barrier parapet forms, Metal Forms Corp. was able to furnish a profile that helps the redesigned interchange fit into its surroundings.


The rebuilding project replaces the original Marquette Interchange that was completed in 1968. It had been carrying 300,000 vehicles per day by the early 2000s, more than double the number for which it was designed. As a vital connector that links almost one-third of the state’s freeway traffic to the rest of the country, its reconstruction became a necessity to handle the added traffic and support an emerging urban renaissance in downtown Milwaukee.


Community-Sensitive Design

With the interchange’s central city location spanning a variety of businesses and neighborhoods, aesthetics were an important consideration. Don Reinbold, project director, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, explained, “We’ve been doing community-sensitive design things for many years, and it involves putting up different types of railings on bridges, different types of light standards, or sometimes a brick or stone facing on a bridge. On this project, it came to the forefront because the city was interested in this freeway looking better than the old freeway and fitting into the community better.”

One such element was the design of the bridge parapets. Although both Lunda and Zenith Tech had used Metal Forms’ barrier and parapet forms on other projects, the Marquette job called for a design that would provide additional architectural features. To meet the requirement, the company added three contoured shapes inside its standard form design, which produced attractive horizontal ribs along the length of the finished parapets.

Marquette Constructors required three different form heights (33.88 in., 44.12 in. and 53 in.). Project Manager Brady Frederick, with Marquette Constructors, explained, “The designer had to take into account highway and safety standards. On the outside of curves or other areas where adjacent traffic is close, headlights from oncoming traffic could be in a driver’s field of vision if the barriers were too low.”

The forms include a number of features that make them easier to set up and align, which is especially important to save time on a large project such as this. Adjustable top spacers are normally set at 9 in. here but are designed to accommodate spacing of 6 to 12 in. and ensure a uniform top thickness. Moment arms have a similar adjustment range to provide positive form alignment. They are interchangeable for use on either a double contour setup or a single contour setup with a straight back, as are being used on this project. Each of the 10-ft-long forms includes two adjustable form aligner assemblies that provide both vertical and horizontal form alignment. Other features include a 2-in.-tall removable bottom riser and two tie pockets per form.

Once a section is completed, the parapets, supports and other concrete features are stained, primarily a wheat color, by spraying. This is part of the plan to help the appearance of the new interchange blend into its surroundings.

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