Freeway To Go

An era ends with the completion of California's I-210

Arthur Schurr, Contributing Author / February 21, 2003

In clearing land for the I-210, three endangered life forms
had to be protected: the kangaroo rat, a plant called the woolly star and Sam

An era has ended. First suggested in a 1924 traffic plan,
the massive undertaking that became the California freeway system is finally
complete. Construction of the I-210 freeway (also known as the Foothill
freeway) adds the final 28.2 miles of roadway to a system that boasts some 900
miles of freeways in Southern California alone. Connecting the city of La Verne
in Los Angeles County to the city of San Bernardino, this last segment is an
eight-lane freeway with 49 new structures, 14 local street interchanges and one
freeway-to-freeway interchange. This is the last freeway to be built on virgin
land; no more new freeways are planned in Southern California (although
existing freeways will continue to be expanded and upgraded).

"This project has been a long time coming,"
explained Norm King, executive director of the transportation commission for
the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG). "And completing the
I-210 could not happen at a better time. Los Angeles International Airport is
about to undergo a planned expansion, and Ontario International Airport is
going to become much, much busier. The already overcrowded I-10 freeway would
have had to carry an even greater burden. Now, the I-210 becomes an absolutely
critical component in the Southland freeway system. And like any freeway built
in this area, it is going to have several roles.

"One of those roles is the movement of goods. Taking
some of the pressure off of the I-10 freeway and State Route 60, the I-210
freeway will improve commerce in the area simply by improving traffic flow.
That's true for people movement as well. Access to the region's airport and
other attractions becomes much easier with the opening of this freeway. And
emergency personnel now have a freeway option if there's an accident on the
I-10 freeway."

Comprising eight lanes (two carpool lanes and six mixed-flow
lanes), the freeway connects with I-15. The inside shoulders of I-210 followed
the same design specifications as the mixed-flow lanes, so the highway could
expand to as many as 10 lanes in the future. Because the I-210 crosses seven
cities--La Verne, Claremont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Rialto and San
Bernardino--it could only be developed through a partnership between SANBAG and
the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

"We're seeing extremes of traffic volume as population
and development continue to expand in the Inland Empire," explained Tim
Watkins, a spokesman for Caltrans. "This freeway provides another critical
east-west option. The I-210 will remove 43,000 vehicles per day from local
arterials. In the next phase of this project, we'll connect to State Route 30
in San Bernardino at the intersection of the I-215. Ultimately, you'll be able
to travel all the way from the I-10 in Redlands to Pasadena on a single

While this may be the last freeway to be constructed on new
land, new does not mean unoccupied. And environmental concerns became one of
the most interesting challenges of this freeway project. While most highway
projects around the country have to deal with environmental issues, this was
more than a little different.

"Let's talk about the San Bernardino kangaroo rat. It
looks like a mouse with long hind legs and a long tail. Think of a
mini-kangaroo," remarked Keith Fullenwider, the resident engineer on the
project for DMJM+Harris. An architecture and engineering firm, DMJM+Harris,
Orange, Calif., provided construction management and engineering for Segments
1-4 of the project. "That peculiar little creature is an endangered
species. So the kangaroo rat and its habitat had to be protected. Because the kangaroo
rat occupies several isolated areas, we had to develop measures that would
protect a substantial acreage.

"First we installed opaque, 4-ft-high fences, and
placed them deep into the ground. That kept the rats from escaping beneath the
fences. Then the rats were carefully trapped and relocated.

"Things were much easier when it came to protecting the
woolly star and its habitat. But none of these measures compared to what had to
be done to preserve Sam Maloof's house."

The protection of natural habitats and endangered species is
a challenge that many project teams face. And moving people and their
residences usually raises few eyebrows on any project. But then there is Sam
Maloof, winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant for his
exquisitely crafted rocking chairs and arguably the greatest living American
woodworker. Maloof's sprawling house and workshop compound--eligible for
inclusion in the National Historic Register and thus stringently protected by
federal law--sat squarely in the I-210's right-of-way. Because this was not
your normal house or compound by any measure, the moving of such a collection
of fragile and historically important buildings became a project unto itself.

"Mr. Maloof's house had to be moved in two
phases," said Maloof relocation project manager Ann Kovara, an architect
with DMJM+Harris. "First we constructed a new residence in a style and
with materials that were similar to his own historic residence. He would live
and work there while we moved his residence and his workshop compound to their
permanent locations. 

"In the second phase, we disassembled and moved his
main house. A 10,000-sq-ft building that had been built over the course of 50
years, this complex structure had to be moved in 11 segments. We had a
contractor, a building mover and a structural engineer study the problem for a
year before we let them take the house apart and move it. This had to be done
because of the piecemeal way the house had been constructed; it wasn't exactly your
typical square, prefabricated suburban house. We carved the house into seven
sections and the workshops into four sections. In addition to the overall
complexity of the structures, there were historic architectural elements inside
the building--cabinets, doors, trim, etc. Maloof had personally created the
woodwork that gave the house its unique interior character.

But moving Maloof's house was not the only unusual aspect of
the project. Several of the communities along the right-of-way had very specific
concerns for their segments of the freeway. Structure Representative Doug
Franco of Vali Cooper and Associates explained.

"For me the most interesting aspect of the project was
the Euclid Avenue overcrossing in Upland. First of all, the structure is wider
than it is long. And Euclid Avenue is a pretty old thoroughfare; it's been
around for 150-200 years. Like the Maloof compound, the area is eligible for
inclusion in the National Historic Register, so protection of the location was
driven by federal law. It's got a nice median where the people of Upland go to
enjoy an evening stroll; it's a community gathering place and they wanted to
keep it that way. The resulting design is like a giant planter on the overpass.

"The overpass bridge is covered 5 ft deep with
material--dirt and sod--and there are 45 or 50 trees planted on top of it. When
you drive over this structure, you don't even know that you're going over the
freeway. And that's the point. They were more than willing to have the freeway
go through, as long as they could make the overpass part of their community.
SANBAG worked very closely with them to make that happen."

Thickening pavement

While the project certainly has its unique and historical
features, it also applied some of the most advanced technology available to
create this latest generation of efficient freeways. A great example of this is
the road surface itself. Caltrans, SANBAG and their private consultants
designed the I-210 using extra-thick portland cement concrete (PCC) pavement.
It is one of the newer, longer-life pavements. According to Fullenwider, 290 mm
of PCC was placed on top of 125 mm of lean concrete base. Those two layers sit
on 95% compacted dirt.

The mix consisted of 25- and 37.5-mm aggregates and sand,
340 kg of cement per cu meter, of which 20% was fly ash, and air and water
admixtures. The minimum cure time was 10 days.

Epoxy-coated rods called low-transfer dowels (38 mm diam.,
460 mm long) were inserted into the mix to tie the sections of concrete
together. The bars were placed approximately every 4 m in the pavement. No. 4
epoxy-coated tie bars (18 mm in diam., 750 mm long) also were used. This entire
process kept the sections from shifting and displacing. Having experimented
with different formulas, Caltrans believes that this approach will provide a
smoother-riding, longer-lasting freeway.

To put that roadbed down, the construction team brought in
one of the largest concrete paving machines in the world. Known as the Gomaco
4000 (Circle 931), this paving machine also is one of the fastest. Paving up to
3,000 ft per day, the machine inserted the low-transfer dowels at transverse
joints in a way that allowed them to slide horizontally on the road, rather
than vertically. This made for better ridability when the pavement sets. The
work on the I-210 was done using an IDBI attachment. Coffman Specialties Inc.,
San Diego, Calif., a subcontractor to Yeager Construction, Riverside, Calif.,
handled this paving assignment. Sapper Construction, Spring Valley, Calif.,
also paved a portion of I-210.

The I-210 represents the end of an era. With the primary
design and construction work now part of its lengthy, convoluted past, Southern
California's freeway system is a testament to the future. But the I-210 also
signifies many other things. Providing a new, much-needed east-west corridor,
the I-210 will relieve its host communities of huge volumes of both local and
intercommunity traffic. And the project itself serves as an example of how a
public works undertaking can be completed so as to benefit every stakeholder.

In clearing land for the I-210, three endangered life forms
were protected: the kangaroo rat, the woolly star and Sam Maloof. Of course,
that doesn't even take into account all of the other lives that were bettered
by the success of this new, last freeway.

About the Author

Schurr is a New York-based freelance writer.

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