The spring of 2013 started a new chapter for the state of Illinois’ infrastructure, one that would combine convenience and safety for drivers as well as job creation for residents. With the hopes of driving economic prosperity throughout the area, the first phase’s scope of work was to complete the primary interchange connections between the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) to I-57 in Chicago.
Before the project was underway, I-294 and I-57 represented one of only two locations in the country where two interstates met without connecting to each other. The Tri-State Tollway is also considered to be one of the most heavily travelled highways in the country. Before construction began on the project, travelers had to use the nearby I-80 interchange, making an indirect connection. This made it difficult on different communities throughout the area, but primarily the neighborhoods of Harvey, Markham, Dixmoor and Posen.
The goal of the $719 million project was to alleviate congestion on local routes, stimulate economic development and improve overall transportation throughout south Chicago. Many others benefitted from the project, which finished phase one in the fall of 2014.
The project itself called for demolishing and replacing I-57 northbound and southbound over I-294. Approaching the overpass, I-57 was also widened to accommodate the traffic movements of the interchange. The new interchange through the Tri-State Tollway is completely electronic with the I-Pass and offers zero cash lanes, making it much quicker to get through without needing to stop and pay. It will be the Tollway’s first interstate-to-interstate interchange that is entirely electronic.
The initial phase of the I-294/I-57 project created and sustained an estimated 3,300 jobs with more than 140 companies receiving contracts for the project. One of the primary contractors on the job was K-Five Construction Corp. of Lemont, Illinois.
The Illinois Tollway and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded K-Five a $22 million contract in spring 2013 to work on the project. With a background in highway construction and pavement rehabilitation for governmental agencies, K-Five is one of the region’s largest asphalt and concrete paving contractors. The fourth generation family owned contractor does the bulk of its work in the public sector. Operating six asphalt plants and numerous portable concrete plant facilities has enabled the company to establish a solid reputation in Illinois and northwest Indiana.
The company of 300-plus was responsible for widening and reconstruction along I-57, which K-Five finished in October 2014. To build and add new ramps, K-Five needed to first demolish the concrete before building the ramps at 147th Street down from the overpass onto I-57. They tore up the concrete using their RX6 breaker from Chicago Pneumatic (CP), which would prove to have a major presence on the job site.
Dean Serna, shop foreman at K-Five Construction, says the crew was pleased with the breaker’s performance. “We have had different breakers in our lineup, but those hit the hardest and tore up the concrete with ease.”
The RX6 breaker is one of six light hydraulic breakers in the CP lineup, which also offers medium and heavy-duty breakers. Featuring an impact rate at 530 to 1,200 blows per minute (bpm), the RX6 fits in the 4- to 9-ton carrier class with a service weight of 600 pounds.
“The RX6 was demolishing concrete at a rapid pace, and we made great progress with the breaker. Anything that can help speed up production, especially on a bigger project is a great tool to have at our disposal,” says Serna.
The RX6 features a recoil absorbing concept and a polyurethane insulated breaker box system designed to keep noise to a minimum. To speed up productivity, CP breakers feature an auto lube system, eliminating the need for manual greasing of the bushings.
“This job required K-Five to break up a lot of concrete, so they were looking for a new breaker to go along with three other manufactured breakers they had before the project started,” says Jeff Zawaski, outside salesman at Blue Island Equipment, based in Homer Glen, Illinois, K-Five’s dealer in the region. “We introduced the Chicago Pneumatic RX6 to them and ran them side by side with their other breakers. Within a week, K-Five gave us a purchase order for them.”
While the primary project to build the interchange connections are complete, it is still a work in progress. By the year 2024, Illinois expects to add the remaining ramps to complete the interchange.
As part of the Congestion Relief Program, the central Tri-State Tollway between 95th Street and Balmoral Avenue as well as the Edens Spur will be rebuilt. The area could be widened to five lanes in each direction, along with wider shoulders for buses and active traffic management features.
While it is a lengthy process, the culmination of each phase will have profound effects throughout the area and the communities. It is planned as a win-win for the state of Illinois.