May 28, 2012
Ambassador Bridge truck road built with lightning speed
The long-delayed dedicated truck road linking the United States Customs plaza at the Ambassador Bridge and Interstates 75 and 96 was opened with fanfare by state and local officials, almost one week ahead of time in a quickly-expedited process.
Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Detroit regional engineer Tony Kratofil lauded construction crews for the fast work, from U.S. consulting engineering firm HNTB, Transystems of Kansas City, Mo., and local Detroit firm Dan’s Excavating which executed the design-build.
“We know we laid on a really tremendous challenge but you really stepped up and did what needed to be done,” he said.
The contract was awarded April 12, work began April 14, and the road was open May 14, one day ahead of schedule though contractors had until May 20.
“They had until midnight tonight May 15 to receive their full incentive on the project but they actually reopened it yesterday at quarter to four in the afternoon,” MDOT project engineer Tia Klein said.
The state raced to get the road up after a court decision March 8 ordered MDOT to take over the project from the Ambassador Bridge company. The bridge had been responsible for the road as part of its share of the $230 million Gateway project, an almost decade-long vast reconfiguration of ramps and freeways at the foot of the U.S. side of the Ambassador Bridge, most of which has been completed.
This follows a three-year protracted court battle. Bridge officials maintained they were completing the project, blaming delays on MDOT for constantly revising specs. But the state accused the company of putting roadblocks literally in the path of the route, such as a pier to hold up a ramp for a possible new bridge span, as well as locating numerous duty-free gasoline pumps in the circumscribed area.
After earlier rulings the company removed the pumps but the state still had to demolish so-called Pier 19, the last pier of the ramp that the bridge company wants to connect to a new span to Windsor, replacing the existing bridge but still needing regulatory approval.
This project is separate from a proposed new downriver bridge that would connect to the $1.4 billion Windsor-Essex Parkway, now under construction, and to Hwy. 401. The Michigan legislature has held up that bridge’s approval because of cost concerns.
During the announcement construction crews were still working to build a barrier wall at the end of the next pier, Pier 18, and were putting finishing concrete touches along the perimeter of the 2,500-foot loop.
To enter the road, trucks turn right out of the U. S. Customs plaza and drive south parallel to Fort Street and then turn northeast to connect to ramps leading to Interstates 75 and 96. Previously trucks had to navigate a series of city streets, causing truckers’ headaches and anger in local neighbourhoods over noise and diesel fumes.
The road is two 12-foot lanes and narrow shoulders built with 12 inch thick unreinforced concrete and aggregate base and a four foot barrier wall, which will support the highest volume of trucks on a Michigan roadway.
The only hesitancy for crews came during excavation. The area has long been home to busy Fort Street in the heart of southwest Detroit’s harbour and warehouse district, and crews had to be wary of a multitude of lines underneath.
“Name a utility and it’s in this road somewhere, and we needed to be cognizant of it,” HNTB’s senior engineer Victor Judnic said.
“We had to put some sewers in and we were then able to work around what’s existing.”
Then they compacted stone to the right density, poured concrete “and just fly at the speed of light,” he said.
Another part of the project was joining two ends of a partially-constructed ramp, known as Structure 32. There was 600 feet of partly built ramp and open space constructed three years ago. The open space was not built upon because of a land severance dispute with the bridge company. The partly built ramp consisted of 500 feet of moss green coloured stranded beams.
“There were 100 feet of open space and 500 feet of beams without a deck on them, so we had to throw on 100 feet of beams and then the deck on the whole 600 feet,” MDOT project engineer Tia Klein said.
But while the road now connects the bridge to interstates, the ramps connecting interstates to the bridge remain closed. They’re expected to open this fall.
The ramps themselves are completed but a connecting road within the bridge plaza is still being worked on, officials said.
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