9/27/2012 3:00:00 PM Work progresses on Vevay Hill: possibly open to traffic in December?
No promises are being made, but with the progress that has been made over the summer and continues to be made on the improvements to State Road 56 on the north side of Vevay - commonly known as Vevay Hill - the construction crew in charge of the project thinks that the road could reopen to traffic sometime in December, barring bad weather or something else that would cause delays.
When the hill was closed to all traffic on April 2nd of this year so that $6.3 million in improvements could be made, officials initially estimated that the hill would be closed until July of 2013 - so projections that the road could be reopened seven months sooner is exciting to county residents.
While the roadway has been closed, most traffic has been rerouted to either Cogley Cole Road; Plum Creek Road; or to Markland Pike - but the reopening of Vevay Hill will have positive effects on downtown business and tourism.
"We've got one more phase of piers to pour out," project manager Brad Burk of the Indiana Department of Transportation said. "That's 26 more piers out of 328 total. We've got a few tops left; but there's one whole phase we haven't done anything to, so that's 26 piers."
The piers are the central focus of the improvements, as each has been drilled into bedrock and then poured with concrete before being tied off into the hillside. Concrete panels are then placed between the piers, which will hold the roadway in place and prevent it from slipping as it has in the past. The wider roadway and the straightening of some of the sharper curves will make the road much more safe for drivers and passengers.
Once the piers and panels are finished and in place, the actual road will be put back, but that's a relatively quick job compared to the time it has taken to pour the piers. Once finished, most of the work will not even be visible to people traveling the hill, because most of the work is below the roadway on the south side of the hill.
The final phase is near the bottom of the hill, where a gap between two sets of piers now exists. Brad Burk says that if the crews do not get rained out this week, the plan is to begin work on the final section either today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday). If all goes as planned, the final phase of the piers could be finished by the end of next week.
"It will take a day to dig it out and then two days of drilling," Brad Burk said of the final phase of piers. "We have to have three days in between and we have to skip every other pier for the stability of the ground and so the concrete can cure. So if we start drilling on Friday, then we can drill again on Tuesday. We would still have to pour the tops, so by the end of next week we may have all the piers poured."
Once the piers of poured, the panels will be put in place and then there will be structure back fill put in place.
"We only have three phases left that we haven't put structure back fill in," Brad Burk said. "That's all the sand back in behind the wall. We've got it all in except for three phases. It will be awhile, yet."
Overall there are 11 phases total in the project, which entails the piers, the tie off of those into the hillside, the placing of the panels and the structural back fill. Eight of those are completely finished. Of the remaining three, two are opened up with the piers poured and will have their panels installed this week; and the final phase is beginning.
As far as the schedule, Brad Burk said that the project is on schedule, noting the Force Construction from Columbus, Indiana, is wanting to have the hill reopened to traffic in December. He said that the entire project may not be completed totally at that time, but the Force feels that it is possible for traffic to resume on the hill.
But Brad Burk voiced caution.
"That's what they're shooting for," he said. "But there are so many variables that have to be considered. We've had great weather to work on the project, but that all could change."
Once the structure back fill is all in place, Brad Burk said that the old roadway will have to be completely torn out. After that, a foot of stone as a sub-grade treatment will be installed.
"There's a lot of stuff that has to happen for all of this to fall in place," he said. "The weather is going to have to hold out, but as far as the piers, we could possibly have those all poured out by the end of next week."
Brad Burk said that workers have to make compression cylinders everyday that concrete is poured, and those cylinders have to withstand pressure levels before they break that tell the workers that the concrete in the piers is strong enough to withstand the tie backs and the panels.
"Normally it takes about seven days for those to cure out and for us to get the correct breaks on them," Brad Burk said. "Once we hit those levels, then we can install the panels, and back fill. The back fill has to be at least eight feet above the tie back before they can actually drill them and install them."
Workers are currently finishing drilling the tie backs at the bottom of the hill, and once those are installed, workers will go up to the very top phase of the hill and start drilling there. The estimate is that all of the tie backs could be installed and completed by the end of November.
Once all of the tie backs are in place, the remainder of the project - which is constructing the actual road - will move rather quickly.
"You've got to put down the subgrade, pave it, and you've got a curb that runs all the way down through there and guardrail," Brad Burk said. "The biggest part of it will be done once we get the piers and tie backs installed. It's moving along."