For over 40 years, right-handers were the ones fumbling with the Marquette Interchange. Back in the late 1950s it was considered state of the art to design a freeway with left-side exits and entrances. Traffic was light; safety rarely had to be negotiated.
“The left-side ramps are actually intuitive,” Brad Flom, project manager for HNTB Corp., told Roads & Bridges. “If you’re going to turn to the left you exit left.”
Today, however, the left-side ramps through the Marquette Interchange, which handles I-43, I-94 and I-794, are leading motorists right into harm’s way. With over 300,000 using the system on a daily basis, those entering must now execute the fine art of swerving if they need to use one of the few right-side ramps further downstream. As a result, the 5.5-mile area accounts for one-third of all crashes on the 50-mile Milwaukee County interstate system. According to Flom, accidents on one particular stretch—I-43 south approaching the interchange—are nine times the state average.
“It’s operationally deficient and there are some pretty severe safety problems,” he said.
The new Marquette Interchange, at an estimated cost of $800 million, is the extreme makeover Milwaukeeans are anxiously awaiting. The safety enhancements, design challenges and traffic management involved make it No. 1 on the Roads & Bridges Top 10 road projects in 2004.
Flom, however, is quick to point out that the primary reason construction is taking place now is due to the deteriorating bridges. Coated rebar was not the norm in mid-20th century road design, which has turned strong steel into weak casualties of corrosion. “The road salt has entered through the concrete ducts and has begun to erode the steel,” said Flom. “As a result, rust is prevalent.”
The project has been broken into five contractual parts: the Clybourn Contract; the North Leg Contract; the West Leg Contract; the South Leg Contract; and the Core Contract. The Clybourn section, valued at $9 million, is near completion. Heavy utility work in this area should help smooth the transition into other portions of the job. Construction of the North Leg ($100 million) started on Oct. 5. This is predominantly a trench section with the freeway sitting below grade and local streets crossing over. Retaining wall work will be extensive, and auxiliary and merging lanes will be expanded. Ramps also will be improved from one lane to two. Construction will include five local bridges and four freeway bridges. The West Leg project, set to start in Jan. 2005, involves setting up temporary roadways, ramps and bridges within the Core Contract area.
“It’s really setting the table so that when the contractor begins his (Core) work in the fall of 2005 he can immediately begin with the bridge removal,” said Flom.
The South Leg contract involves widening the high-rise Menomonee Valley Bridge. Crews will be tying in a number of ramps to the bridge structure. The Core Contract will deal with the entire system ramp of the interchange as well as the east leg of I-794.
In order to effectively maintain traffic, designers did not fixate on any existing alignment. The original ramps left expansive openings within the center of the interchange, where portions of the new mainline freeway system will be installed. In addition, all high-level right-hand ramps will be constructed without any constraints.
“We were free to develop alignments that both benefited geometry as well as accommodating some staging,” said Flom. Officials also catered to the neighborhood. A community-sensitive design approach soaked input from area groups. The area’s church-steeple landscape inspired spire-shaped bridge columns.
#2 Dan Ryan Expressway, Chicago
The Windy City has been hit with a hurricane of road construction plans lately, and at the center of it all is the Dan Ryan Expressway. This corridor, which carries I-90 and I-94, has excessive congestion which has led to more than 8,200 accidents from 1998 to 2000. The $430 million job will include the repaving of local access roads, the addition of local lanes and entrance ramps.
#3 Page Ave. Extension, St. Louis
At times the Gateway Arch seemed easier to clear than some of the obstacles involved with the Page Ave. Extension project. But after 30 years of work the 8-mile, 10-lane, $350 million roadway was complete in December 2003. The mitigation plan included doubling the size of the Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park with the addition of more than 1,000 acres.
#4 Borman Expressway, Northwest Indiana
A major movement in the Lake Michigan corridor, the Borman Expressway (I-80/I-94) improvement will add new auxiliary lanes between interchanges and a new through lane in each direction. The cost is set at $300 million.
#5 Katy Freeway, Houston
Katy will have a strong following of admirers in the coming years. The $263 million worth of construction involves building a fully directional interchange on top of an existing one.
#6 I-580, Washoe County, Nev.
I-580 is in the midst of one final growth spurt. The 8.5-mile facility, at a price of $310 million, will effectively complete the entire system as it travels through Washoe County. It will be a six-lane, full-access controlled undivided facility with shoulders.
#7 Northwest Parkway, Broomfield, Colo.
The 9.2-mile Northwest Parkway project ($187 million) included a $60 million, four-level directional interchange at I-25, a diamond interchange with braided ramps at U.S. 287 and 26 grade separation structures.
#8 FDR Drive, New York, N.Y.
The new FDR Drive is sure to last more than four presidential terms. Perhaps the biggest feat of this $136 million project is the Outboard Detour Roadway, which accommodates two lanes of detoured northbound traffic while rehab of 1.28 miles of FDR is under way.
#9 Interchange 8, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Completed in August, this job—listed at $187 million—involved a complete realignment of the interchange beginning at the Tappan Zee Bridge Toll Plaza and extending to the Saw Mill River Parkway while maintaining all through traffic on the New York State Thruway and Cross Westchester Expressway.
#10 I-95, Florence, S.C.
For 13.5 miles, crews constructed an additional two lanes in the median, then removed and replaced the existing lanes all while keeping 65,000 motorists moving. The contractor recycled the old pavement and used a dowel-bar inserter—a first in South Carolina. Total cost was just over $64 million.