The Highway 169/I-494 Interchange Reconstruction
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) recently introduced the product of a two-year reconstruction in Bloomington. The interchange between Highway 169 and Interstate 494 returned to full function in November 2012 after a $128 million project wrapped up on the crossroads. The necessary changes were identified and approved in 2003, but state funding had to be redirected to more critical repair projects. In 2009 MnDOT approved a design-build plan from joint venture partners C.S. McCrossan (McCrossan) and Edward Kraemer & Sons (EKS). The project is classified as a best-value design-build in which a proposer is awarded the contract based on low-cost, high-benefit solutions and innovative design.
“There are a lot of stakeholders on this project,” says Randy Reiner, construction manager for McCrossan. “We were working with three cities: Bloomington, Edina and Eden Prairie. We were coordinating several different agendas while working with MnDOT as our primary owner. The first six months were spent in lots of design coordination meetings.”
Reiner has decades of experience in construction, and his expansive knowledge and strong leadership skills played an integral role in the project’s success. “I was running backhoes at age seven,” he explains. “I graduated from college 25 years ago and I’ve been with McCrossan for 18 of those years. It’s an exciting place. We’re privately owned and we perform a large variety of complex work. I’m a civil engineer, so I get to design quite a bit of temporary works for the company when we have the need.” Outside of project management, Reiner serves as the company’s structural division manager.
Reiner notes that this is one of the most complex projects he has been involved in throughout all of his time with McCrossan. “Coordination has been critical,” he explains. “The first year was dancing around the underground utilities and installing a new storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water main. We had to work hand in hand with utility owners on a daily basis and then there was the challenge of a government shutdown in the middle of it. All work was shut down for three weeks in the summer, but we overcame it. Our scheduling was a huge success and we’ve stood by a two-year completion commitment for this project.”
The design-build project included a total reconstruction of the major highway interchange between state Highway 169 and Interstate 494. “New construction includes 12 bridges, six roundabouts, over two miles of retaining wall and 25 lane-miles of roadway with curb and gutter and miles of utilities,” says Reiner. “We were fortunate in that last year’s warm winter was advantageous for earthwork. We were able to advance the project, and then 2012 stayed fairly dry.”
The completed project offers huge benefits for travelers now utilizing the corridor. The interchange was rebuilt with separated local connections, and traffic signals have been removed to increase efficient travel. The highway has been outfitted with better drainage and water quality facilities, as well as noise/visual barrier walls to mitigate noise and glare. The bridges optimize design safety features to cut down on ice danger. “Two of the bridges on this project have an anti-icing system to help prevent ice formation on the road,” says Reiner.
Building a Team
McCrossan and EKS worked with a number of subcontractors on the project. “We self-performed about 50 percent of the work,” notes Reiner. “We worked with a few major engineering companies: Jacobs Engineering, the primary designer, who we contracted for the overall design at $12 million; TKDA as a sub-consultant to design roundabouts and some bridges; and Braun Engineering for quality control, at a cost of about $4 million.”
The general contractors on the projects opted for highest quality and value-added subcontractors for everything from electrical work to laying turf. “There are a number of factors we take into account,” says Reiner. “We like to work with people we’ve worked with in the past, but we also look at pricing, disadvantaged business goals, schedule and resource availability and make an effort to employ those firms with the best combination that will ensure success. All of our subcontractors need to be bonded and insured.”
The project was broken down into multiple taskforces. Divided by function, the design, visual quality, maintenance and traffic divisions worked diligently and cooperatively to put the interchange together. With so many components, organization became integral. Every step was critical and needed to be first approved by MnDOT along with city stakeholders’ review.
The project wrapped up in late November 2012, and Highway 169 has been converted into a freeway by eliminating three stoplights. The local roads remained open, albeit to a limited extent, throughout construction; this compromise allowed continued usage for travelers, while offering a safe work environment to the professionals on site.
What was formerly one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the region has transitioned into a smooth-operating interchange. C.S. McCrossan and Edward Kraemer & Sons came in on time and on budget. With major commercial and industrial businesses close by, the completed interchange presents better transportation options to individuals and businesses. The Highway 169/ I-494 Interchange has proven a great success through the vision and collective effort of many regional designers and contractors.
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