Indiana closed a major interstate corridor for repairs and reopened it a month ahead of schedule.
On Interstate 65 and 70 (I–65/70) in Indianapolis, IN, most people–not just the Indiana Department of Transportation's (INDOT) maintenance crews could recognize the signs of aging infrastructure: potholes, deteriorating joints, and rough bridge decks. Years of service and rapidly growing traffic volumes had taken their toll. When transportation planners review all the options for road rehabilitation, sometimes the best choice may be the "road less traveled," literally.
On May 26, 2003, INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) planned to shut down the combined sections of I–65/70 in the heart of the city for 85 days of rehabilitation. The 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile)-long project, dubbed "Hyperfix 65/70," would rehabilitate 33 bridge decks and about 56 lane-kilometers (35 lane-miles) of concrete pavement. It also would add capacity with additional travel and merge lanes.
Before the project began, The Indianapolis Star ran an article (March 2003) warning commuters to brace themselves for what could be the "worst construction season ever." The article explained that the city of Indianapolis planned to begin repairing several major downtown streets in preparation for the Hyperfix project. The crews would conduct repair work at more than 20 locationsall at the same timepotentially increasing congestion for downtown commuters.
On July 20, only 55 days after the Hyperfix project began, former Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon (who passed away September 13, 2003), United States Representative Julia Carson, and other dignitaries proudly opened the $30 million repaired interstate 30 days ahead of schedule. Former U.S. Congressman Andy Jacobs ceremoniously waved a green flag as the State opened the road to cars, trucks, and other vehicles waiting to head northbound on the interstate.
Thanks to meticulous planning and cooperation among government agencies, the news media, the construction team, and the traveling public, the traffic jams that the journalist from The Indianapolis Star predicted never materialized. "Hyperfix," says INDOT Commissioner J. Bryan Nicol, "is an innovative model for repairing metropolitan interstates."
Few questioned the necessity of rebuilding the highway and bridges on the I–65/70 corridor. When the shared Interstate 65/70 corridor first opened in October 1976, it was designed to handle 61,000 vehicles per day. Recent traffic counts by INDOT engineers revealed that more than 175,000 cars and trucks drove this stretch on a daily basis.
Efficiently repairing the busy, deteriorating interstate and its bridges, however, posed a logistical problem. In reviewing its options, INDOT determined that rehabilitating the infrastructure using traditional methods (that is, with partial closures) would take 180 to 200 workdays, possibly requiring two construction seasons, and cost $1 million per day in lost productive time to the highway users. "I directed our engineers to put together a plan to deliver the project in record time," says Commissioner Nicol.
Eventually, INDOT leaders started discussing a total shutdown. Despite disruptions for commuters and other road users, a shutdown would enable the State to complete the project more quickly, safely, and at a reduced cost. More than a year of planning followed with input from all the stakeholders.
Prepping with City Street Repairs
In mid-summer 2002, when Indianapolis began planning for the I–65/70 closure, the city hired traffic consultants to analyze the project's likely impact on city streets. West Street, the local street running parallel to the I–65/70 link, was carrying its design load of 25,000 vehicles daily. The consultant anticipated a doubling to 50,000 vehicles a day during Hyperfix 65/70. Clearly some changes were needed to increase capacity there and at several other chokepoints.
"We had to figure out what we needed to do," says Paul Whitmore, public information officer for the City of Indianapolis' Department of Public Works, "how quickly we could accomplish it, and how we were going to pay for it."
To help Indianapolis prepare its streets for the increased traffic, construction began mid-March 2003, at a hectic pace to finish before Hyperfix 65/70 started at the end of May.
Modifying West Street to increase capacity was the most significant project for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. The construction contractor added an additional travel lane in each direction by reducing the width of the lanes and cutting into the landscaped median. The contractor also milled the street and put down a new asphalt surface to handle the anticipated heavy truck traffic that normally passes through on the I–65/70 link.
The city added turn lanes, restricted parking during the morning and evening rush hours, and took steps to accommodate additional traffic volumes on corridors connecting the northeastern part of the county to the suburbs. Two key intersections specifically required upgrades to handle the additional volume. One fix involved removing an existing traffic signal to allow free-flowing traffic. The other required removing a concrete median, installing numerous lane shifts, and adding a second right-turn lane. To make sure motorists anticipated the changes, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works posted 600 new signs downtown, on heavily traveled corridors, and as far away as 11 to 13 kilometers (7 to 8 miles) northeast on the restricted left turns.
"The media was key in helping people understand the necessary changes," Whitmore adds. "The Indianapolis Star, for example, put together a special section on the city street changes just weeks before the project."
Running Smooth Detours
Preparing for the project, INDOT and FHWA were determined to minimize disruption to the traveling public. The I–65/70 corridor, just east of downtown, is not only a major gateway to the city but also a heavily used route for commuters and through traffic.
"The traffic pattern in Indianapolis is commuter-driven so we looked at ways to inform the motoring public and identify alternate routes," says INDOT Operations Engineer Jay Wasson.
The State's Traffic Management Center, the Indiana State Police, and INDOT's freeway service patrol operators, known as Hoosier Helpers, collaborated to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Throughout the project, downtown commuters could use all but one of the exits on either end of the closure. INDOT directed national and regional traffic onto the construction-free outer beltway (Interstate 465). Starting 16 kilometers (10 miles) outside the I–465 beltway and at key locations downtown, INDOT erected the distinctive Hyperfix 65/70 signage directing traffic around the construction zone. Also, INDOT repositioned several portable message signs in conjunction with the overhead dynamic message signs to convey real-time information to the motoring public about possible congestion.
City officials and INDOT used demand management to control congestion. Many businesses in the downtown area, for example, staggered their work hours or encouraged employees to carpool. To minimize noise concerns, INDOT met regularly with downtown residents, businesses, and employees to advise them on the progress of the project.
As the start date approached, INDOT and its partners implemented other precautions to ensure smooth traffic flow but soon discovered the additional efforts were unnecessary. For example, the State budgeted $100,000 in overtime for police, mainly to direct traffic downtown. But after 3 days into the project, motorists had adjusted to the detours and other factors, and the extra police presence was no longer necessary. Similarly, the city established an emergency communication center to handle traffic tie–ups or other difficulties but closed the center after 48 hours when the tie-ups never materialized.
"This is a tribute," says INDOT Commissioner Nicol, "both to the preparations of the Federal, State, and local public works team and to the response of the area commuters."
Coordinating Public Transit
To alleviate congestion and offer an alternative for commuters heading downtown, the local transit agency, IndyGo, established the first park-and-ride program in Indianapolis. The FHWA Indiana Division, IndyGo, INDOT, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization all collaborated on the planning. FHWA approved the use of $1 million in funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program to support the Hyperfix Park & Ride project from May through the end of 2003.
One week before construction began on Hyperfix 65/70, IndyGo launched the park-and-ride program. The transit company turned to a private vendor to supply 18 buses seating 45 to 55 passengers each to transport commuters from three locations in the northeast quadrant the area most affected by the closure to three downtown drop points. The touring buses featured reclining seats, onboard restrooms, mini-tables for laptops, and cup holders for coffee. Buses ran from 6a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and every 15 minutes during rush hours. According to Gilbert Holmes, IndyGo's chief executive officer, between 550 and 600 riders were using the bus service at peak ridership.
"This transit project is a marvelous example of partnership with FHWA, INDOT, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization," Holmes says. "We all joined hands and said, 'Let's make this happen.'"
The spirit of cooperation also extended to the private sector, including a transportation vendor who supplied buses on short notice and parking facility owners who allowed commuters to park in their lots. Two shopping centers and Fort Harrison, a former military establishment that is now a private community, permitted commuters to use their parking facilities so that IndyGo did not have to acquire and prepare additional property for parking.
"This is an incredible community project demonstrating the value of public transit and that people want it to happen," Holmes adds.
Closing for Construction
The schedule was ambitious. The combined I–65 and I–70 highway closed for construction on May 26, 2003. Repairs took place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the first half of the job, the contractor performed pavement removal. Then, after preparing the base for the northbound lanes, the contractor began pouring concrete and flipped over to the southbound side. During the demolition stage, the contractor employed up to 100 people on the payroll, plus the subcontractors' laborers onsite. The paving required 73,600 square meters (88,000 square yards) of concrete pavement and 31,700 metric tons (35,000 tons) of asphalt. Because the full section was closed, the contractor was able to work on up to 20 bridge structures simultaneously.
"The oversight was challenging for our staff," says Tim Conarroe, INDOT project engineer. Twenty-four oversight people covered the two 12-hour shifts. The oversight personnel worked 6 days; then INDOT pulled in employees from the outlying areas to cover the seventh day. In total, Conarroe counted 43 INDOT employees sharing the work of overseeing the project. INDOT oversight totaled 31,680 hours for the 55-day, 1,320-hour project.
The contractor earned a $3 million incentive ($100,000 per day) for the 30-day early finish. "Our contractor achieved the early finish date by the tremendous human resources and excellent organization of work activity," Conarroe says. "Another key was the excellent working relationships between INDOT, our general contractor, and all the subcontractors. Everything went smoothly without delays or hang-ups for decisionmaking."
Hyperfix 65/70 actually was Phase 2 of the total project. In Phase 1, the contractor assured reliable access to downtown by rehabilitating the interchanges on either end of the project in the traditional way, one lane at a time. This work lasted from March 28 to May 2, 2003. Phase 3, adding an additional lane on the connecting ramp from eastbound I–70 to southbound I–65 and pavement patching on the collector ramps, began on July 30 and continued through August 30.
Generating Community Outreach
Early on, INDOT educated the news media about the repair work, why it was necessary, how it was going to be done, and what the motoring public needed to know to minimize the negative impact of the closure. Acting on guidance from a public relations firm, INDOT decided to "brand" the project by developing a name, logo, and other easily identifiable markings to use on highway signs, public transit, and printed materials.
In January 2003 the public relations agency began a community outreach campaign involving media interviews and notices, public meetings, advertising, displays at local rest stops, and distribution of 5,000 map pads and 250,000 maps showing recommended alternative routes. And, on April 10 State workers began erecting posts to display the Hyperfix 65/70 signage, which shows a running construction worker.
The press releases stressed the lower costs associated with an accelerated timetable and noted the safety advantages of a shutdown to both commuters and workers. The press releases also promoted the long-term benefits such as improvements in traffic flow and patterns that would serve the needs of Indianapolis residents for many years to come. The Indianapolis Star polled area residents asking their opinions on a complete shutdown of the facility to permit quick repairs versus a longer project with partial closures. By a 2–1 margin, residents indicated a preference for closure.
"Because we partnered with the news media throughout the process," Commissioner Nicol says, "that first day we did not have the gloom and doom gridlock with the whole city shut down. People changed their travel behaviors, and it was a huge success."
INDOT's Hyperfix Web site featured a project timeline to keep the public notified of progress at a glance. With each new stage, INDOT moved the arrow indicating completed stages in green, and stages to be completed in red.
The site also included an explanation of the activities that would occur at each stage and projected calendar dates for completion:
"Hyperfix has been a catalyst for many good things," Nicol says. Indianapolis retained the street improvements, for example, that added capacity to West Street. Many of the restrictions on left turns and parking have improved the traffic flow so well that they remained in force even after completion of the Hyperfix 65/70 project, and the public works department is evaluating making them permanent. Buses still use the software that changes traffic signals to extend green lights. And IndyGo and city leaders are encouraged by the increased bus ridership, which continues above preproject levels.
"We have demonstrated the popularity of the park-and-ride program, so we're seeking funding to continue it and extend it to other areas of Indianapolis," Holmes says.
According to Whitmore, the word "Hyperfix" has become a household term for Indianapolis residents, conveying the notion of an efficient fix or repair. Because the public responded so well, INDOT may use the name again for future projects of this magnitude. "Hyperfix has become part of the local language as our residents apply it to different situations," he says. "I saw a sign in a sports shop the other day noting, 'Let [us] Hyperfix your game.' "
Gerard (Gary) Mroczka, P.E., manager of special projects at INDOT, worked on planning the Hyperfix 65/70 project from the start. He currently serves as INDOT's division chief of design. Mroczka can be reached at 317–232–5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valdis (Val) Straumins is the field operations engineer with the FHWA Indiana Division and the FHWA liaison for the Hyperfix 65/70 project. He participated in all aspects of the project. Straumins can be reached at 317–226–7479 or email@example.com.
Jim Pinkelman was formerly senior public affairs officer in the FHWA Office of Public Affairs. He is now deputy director for communications in the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs in Washington, DC.
INDOT's Division of Research, in collaboration with Purdue University, prepared a report on Hyperfix that will be available to other States by early 2004. For more information, visit the Hyperfix Web site at www.in.gov/dot/div/specialprojects/hyperfix.