Walsh crews prepare for the next phase of the I-75 Mill Creek Expressway: CEG

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Phase 5A construction on the I-75 Mill Creek Expressway is underway at a cost of $87 million. (ODOT/OAS photo)

To improve safety and reduce traffic congestion, crews in Hamilton County, Ohio continue to work on a multi-year project known as the I-75 Mill Creek Expressway project.

“This will serve the tri-state area and the more than 160,000 motorists who use this busy corridor every day,” said Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for District 8 of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). “It will also serve interstate motorists and the significant freight traffic it carries beyond Ohio’s borders, as I-75 is a major north-south interstate freeway stretching from Miami to Canada.”

Work on the Mill Creek Expressway in the greater Cincinnati area has been in progress for more than a decade. The construction was divided into a dozen phases, although not carried out in order. Many of the phases, including the demolition of the building and replacement of the Indiana Ohio Railway bridge over I-75 just south of State Route 562/Norwood Lateral, have been completed.

“The entire Mill Creek Expressway project represents an approximately $600 million investment in this portion of the I-75 corridor,” Fuller said. “Due to the scale of the project and the cost, it was not feasible or practical to design, mitigate, purchase right-of-way and build as a single project.”

With approximately 155,000 to 170,000 vehicles traversing this section of the I-75 corridor each day, the congestion is only getting worse. According to the planning year 2030, the traffic volume should reach 190,000.

“By reducing congestion, we’re making the road safer,” said Charlie Rowe, senior project manager/design-build coordinator for ODOT District 8. “Various intersections will also be redesigned to eliminate left-hand exits and poor curving of the ramps. “

Phase 5A construction is currently underway at a cost of US$87 million. The work will widen I-75 to four lanes in each direction between the Mitchell Avenue and Hopple Street interchanges, and improve eastbound connections from I-74 to I-75. Walsh Construction Company LLC acts as contractor.

“The Walsh Group is a leader in the transportation industry,” said Rowe. “We have enjoyed a great partnership with their team throughout the construction project.”

With several phases already complete, Rowe said construction has progressed at a steady pace.

“Things went well and we are happy with the project. There were no major issues as evidenced by the very low percentage of change orders we had.”

Each project has separate funding with allocations from different sources. Funding comes primarily from ODOT’s Safety, Major Rehabilitation, and Major New programs (through the TRAC) and from District 8 Conservation Funds.

Rowe said as with any major project, drivers had to deal with inconveniences, but nothing extraordinary.

“ODOT has developed a set of highway and dual carriageway lane closure plans that indicate the times of day when one or more lane closures are permitted, and contractors follow these guidelines. Outside of the approved times, all existing lanes and ramps are maintained and opened to traffic.”

In addition to adhering to the allowable lane closure schedule, ODOT has complied with the traffic plan outlined in the construction schedule. Through traffic advisories provided via email, traditional media, social media posts and the travel information app OHGO, ODOT has informed motorists and the general public of any restrictions or impacts.

Rowe said the design-build effort allowed ODOT to timely sell the project with the financing available.

“The two-step design-build sourcing allowed us to review and accept or reject alternative engineering concepts that have proven to be savings for the department.”

ODOT District 8 Civil Project Engineer Chris Tuminello remarked, “One of the biggest challenges is that this is a design-build project in a system-to-system manner [I-74 to I-75] Exchange. The project site is located in a narrow corridor that poses several logistical challenges for access and the phases of the works. This includes coordinating work above and near the CSX and NS railways, where approximately 100 trains per day pass through the project area.”

Construction of Phase 5A began in fall 2018 and will be completed in late summer. At the moment, crews are completing the middle barrier wall construction, final grading, and installation of electrical and ITS systems. The widening of I-75 and the rebuilding of eastbound I-74 and its connection to I-75 have already been completed.

“The widening of I-75 included excavation on the east side into Mt. Storm Park and a widening with a dam on the west,” Tuminello said. “The project required approximately 130,000 cubic meters of excavation.”

The remaining tasks of Phase 5A include moving the traffic to its final configuration, performing final surfacing and banding, and completing the bridge paintwork. Phase 5A equipment included excavators (Caterpillar 312, 336F, John Deere and Komatsu PC490); Sheepfoot and smooth drum vibratory compactors; bulldozers (Cat D4 and John Deere 650); drilling equipment; crawler and mobile cranes; wheel loaders (Volvo L90 and L120); concrete and asphalt pavers; and aerial elevators (40- to 120-foot booms).

Main materials are in-situ concrete; asphalt pavement; steel and concrete bridge girders; rebar; H and W shaped steel piles; and aggregates for backfill and foundations.

The main concern of the overall project is to ensure safe access for both the traveling public and safe work zones for the project team while adhering to the project plan.

As for the most time-consuming part of the Phase 5A construction, Tuminello said, “It reconstructed this busy transport hub while maintaining traffic through the corridor. The construction was carried out in 19 phases of maintaining traffic.”

Phase 5B is a design-build project currently under contract and construction will begin this spring. Phase 8 is scheduled to be leased in 2022. Work is expected to begin soon after the contract has been awarded. All work is expected to be completed in summer 2026.

Tuminello said that while the overall job is lengthy, it is extremely rewarding for those involved.

“Projects of this scale always present challenges along the way. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to know the challenges that have been overcome in delivering these projects and the benefits they will bring to the community for years to come.” CEG

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