By Matt Lehmenkuler, P.E. and Jason Sander, P.E.
The Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway (also known as State Route 823 or Portsmouth Bypass) is the largest single transportation project in the State of Ohio’s history, as well as Ohio’s first true public-private partnership (P3). Due to its route around the city of Portsmouth, this 16-mile stretch of new four-lane highway reduces commuting time by up to 30 minutes, while providing opportunities for economic growth and commerce. Construction of the $634 million project began in 2015 and was completed on schedule in December 2018.
Extreme site requires seamless materials testing
The company of record enlisted Terracon for our expertise in quality control and quality management. Not only is it unusual to complete 16 miles of new roadway in a single phase, nearly 23 million cubic yards of Appalachian mountain earth had to be cleared and moved first, at times cutting as deep as 200 feet into the rock to meet design grades. Our quality control technicians monitored the placement of material into the valleys to build road, or back into the terrain. We established an onsite AASHTO accredited laboratory to perform concrete compressive strength testing and index testing of native soils. This reduced sample transport distance and time, allowing for faster delivery of quality results. We also evaluated the cut slopes, providing the risk rating for the exposed rockface consisting of shale, sandstone, and clay stones.
In addition to the onsite natural materials, working seamlessly with the public-private partnership(P3) team, we helped design, develop, and provide quality control for the construction materials used in the 21 bridges needed to complete the bypass, more than half of which required mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls for support. In all, 300,000 square feet of MSE walls were built. There were also numerous structures and substructures for bridges, as well as culverts, that required verification of the specified material and foundation installations. We utilized our onsite lab to cure and test all concrete compression test cylinders.
The geology and subsurface conditions, including the soil types and characteristics, as well as depth to suitable bearing material and bedrock, ultimately were the factors used to select the proper foundation system for each bridge structure. The engineer of record determined the foundation type based on their analysis of the site conditions. Our inspections varied for each foundation type. For spread footings, we verified that conditions specified by the engineers in the plans were the conditions found in the field. To do that, we verified soil and rock types, looking for fractures or other visual differences. For pile foundations, our inspectors verified pile sizes and blow counts for the pile hammer. For drilled piers, we verified size, depth, and end bearing conditions, inspected reinforcing steel, and tested the concrete.
Primarily using visual inspection, Terracon reviewed the reinforcing steel and formwork prior to concrete placement. This included counting reinforcing bars, verifying bar type, measuring lengths and spacing of bars, and measuring formwork. Industry standards and project specifications required protection of concrete during cold weather, defined as ambient temperature below freezing. The goal was to keep the concrete warm enough to prevent freezing and allow for proper curing, but not so warm that the concrete generated too much heat. The team conducted strength testing and remote thermal monitoring during cold-weather placements to avoid cracking by confirming the concrete was cured at the temperatures and durations specified.
As required by the project specifications, all test report data was prepared and uploaded within 24 hours to a proprietary electronic data management system that simplified analysis for two additional ownership reviews. In the three and a half years of the project, more than 13,000 material reports were provided, illustrating the complexity and wide scope of the project. Use of an Electronic Data Management System (EDMS) enabled efficient management of documents.
An extensive team at the ready
A project of this magnitude required significant (and trusted) manpower. Our team was equipped to send 22 quality control technicians and inspectors from multiple locations (including Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio; Charleston, W. Va.; and Cleveland, and Lexington, Ky.) to assist, and by project completion, more than 100 Terracon employees were involved. With the flexibility and resources to meet changing needs throughout the project, Terracon provided the resources and creative problem-solving required to make this complex project a success.
Safety was always a priority, which was demonstrated by Terracon reporting zero recordable injuries. This impressive record was achieved using a robust system comprised of daily pre-task planning, additional safety communication prior to the task and during the tasks, documented near-miss reporting, documented onsite safety check-ins with managers, and regular safety toolbox talks.
We partnered with “Ohio Means Jobs” within the State of Ohio’s Office of Workforce Development to bolster the project workforce by hiring local materials technicians and providing on-the-job training. This investment in the community benefited all involved. Five of the local technicians remained full-time Terracon employees after the project’s completion.
Responding to supplemental engineering or additional approved scope changes during the life of this project allowed our team to demonstrate the partnership and flexibility needed to keep the work moving.
Terracon was glad to contribute to this history-making roadway, while facilitating economic growth with new, easier access, and a safer alternative route.
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Matt Lehmenkuler, P.E. is a project manager at Terracon’s Cincinnati office specializing in large project construction materials quality control. Matt joined Terracon in 2014 prior to his graduation from the University of Cincinnati with his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.
Jason Sander, P.E., is senior vice president and national director for Materials Engineering Services, based in Terracon’s Cincinnati office. With the company since 1995, he was previously regional manager for Terracon’s Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky., offices.