Iowa DOT Reconstructs Portion of Interstate Damaged by Flood a Month Ahead of Schedule

AASHTO Journal, 5 October 2012

The Iowa Department of Transportation reconstructed a stretch of interstate ravaged by Missouri River flooding in just 34 days, allowing drivers to resume their normal commutes much faster than initially expected.

In late May 2011, the Upper Missouri River Basin saw nearly a year’s worth of rainfall, while melting snow runoff (about 200 percent of the usual amount for that time) also ran into the river system. All this precipitation caused the Missouri River Basin to swell, causing the worst Missouri River flooding in history.

The flooding wreaked havoc on Iowa’s transportation system and economy. One of the biggest problems was the complete demolition of a 3.1-mile stretch of I-680, which connected Iowa to Nebraska and saw about 18,000 vehicles per day, much of that vital to Iowa’s economy. Iowa DOT decided it had to reconstruct this portion of the highway quickly for the sake of commuters and in order to get the rest of the area back on track, especially before winter weather set in.

For the $19.2 million project, Iowa DOT fast-tracked the design process by using a limited design approach, which allowed the department to be flexible and get to rebuilding the road before all design details were completely in place. Iowa DOT utilized the original 1970s design plans for the roadway, which were on file electronically. Iowa DOT also determined the roadway could also follow the original highway footprint, which cut out having to go through the environmental process again.

Beginning on Sept. 24, contractors worked on the reconstruction 24 hours per day for 10 days straight. After that period, work shifted to days consisting of 14 to 16 hours. Iowa DOT officials and its project contractors stayed in constant communication, which formed a strong working relationship between the two. Decisions were made thoroughly and quickly, as Iowa DOT understood the importance of getting the roadway back up for drivers.

Traffic was opened up on this stretch of I-680 on Nov. 2, just 34 days after construction began and about a month ahead of schedule. Iowa DOT credits its crews for the quick finish, thanking the 300 or so individuals putting in 60,000 worker hours for getting drivers back on the roadway that was so vital for flood cleanup and recovery.

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