The highway that has provided a critical southern loop around the city of Nashville for more than three decades has been given a significant upgrade that will provide motorists with a roadway that is safer and faster to travel.
The $154.8 million reconstruction of Interstate 440 (I-440), between Interstate 40 and Interstate 24 in Davidson County, is the single largest transportation project in the history of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).
WSP USA served as the lead designer for the project, working on the design-build team led by Kiewit Infrastructure South Co.
“The community demanded the improvement due to the deteriorated condition of the existing pavement,” said Brad Winkler, project manager for WSP USA. “Since its completion, the public has been very complimentary of the project.”
The original I-440 was opened in 1987 to address urban congestion in Nashville that had grown due to a trucking industry boom at that time. The highway created a way for traffic to avoid downtown Nashville.
However, the four-lane highway was built to accommodate up to 64,000 vehicles per day; today, the corridor averages 100,000 vehicles per day.
The project involved reconstruction of 7.5 miles of I-440 and included a full-depth replacement of deteriorated concrete pavement with asphalt, the addition of a third travel lane in each direction and ramp safety improvements at the 21st Avenue and Murphy Avenue exits. Work also entailed the widening of bridges, removal of an elevated median, upgrades to the intelligent transportation system (ITS) and roadway lighting, noise walls, rock fall mitigation and landscaping improvements.
One of the significant achievements in this project was the implementation of a highly successful rubblization process – a technique for the on-site reduction and re-use of concrete debris into rubble.
The process of rubblization for the I-440 project involved the crushing of the top layer of the concrete pavement, which was then recycled for use as the base and subgrade for the final asphalt pavement.
“The project team implemented a rubblization process that greatly decreased the amount of debris that needed to be hauled off site,” Winkler said. “This decreased the amount of material that would have been directed toward landfills and significantly reduced the number of trucks leaving the construction site and subsequently creating traffic congestion issues on other roadways.”
More than 100 employees from 11 WSP offices were utilized to provide the necessary personnel for the project. To achieve efficiency, all team members were set-up with ProjectWise access, a project management platform where all design files and relevant materials are maintained. A strict adherence to the ProjectWise protocol helped to ensure efficiency and achieve success.
“The team camaraderie that was built across multiple WSP offices to complete the project successfully was impressive to witness,” Winkler said.
Final construction of the project was delivered to TDOT a month earlier than anticipated. The accelerated delivery of all design work, covering 20 submittal packages, was completed in eight months.
“Our team proposed a schedule that would deliver a finished project sooner than what TDOT had envisioned,” Winkler said. “It was imperative to keep the project on schedule, so we were thrilled that all initial design was completed and approved for construction one month ahead of schedule, which in turn provided the contractor with early access to construction activities.”
Construction on the project began in September 2018. A ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the re-opening of the roadway was held in July and the project achieved full completion in September.
“The I-440 project is a perfect example of the importance of investing in our infrastructure,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said during the grand opening event, according to TDOT. “This roadway is a vital part of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s transportation system, and it will now be capable of serving this community for decades to come.”
Due to COVID-19, the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the reconstructed highway was modified from traditional grand opening events, but Winkler and his team were still invited to participate.
“It was really a parade/caravan through the project limits,” Winkler said. “WSP personnel rode in several vehicles through the project while being escorted by TDOT HELP Trucks. Vendors and contractors were staged along the route to celebrate the achievements for all involved.”
COVID-19 has affected the anticipated impact this reconstruction project will have once traffic volume returns to normal levels. However, early feedback is that the smoother ride is greatly appreciated, as is the two additional lanes that have created improved free flow vehicle movement along the new stretch of highway.
Reflecting on the significance of this project Winkler, who was raised in Nashville, said he vividly remembers when the original I-440 highway was constructed.
“With my middle school and high school located just off 440, I watched daily as it was being built,” he recalled. “Having the opportunity to work on this project 30 years later was both exciting and nostalgic. This roadway is as much a part of my Nashville upbringing and heritage as anything else.”
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