Based in St. Charles, MO, TraMar Contracting was in need of new construction barriers in 2018 after experiencing a growth in business over the years. The contractor specializes in offering temporary traffic control services throughout the state and had weighed its options before ultimately deciding to add steel barriers to its previously all-concrete fleet.
Though the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) had approved the use of steel barriers on projects for a while, TraMar Contracting became the first in the state to actually use them, partnering with transportation safety product manufacturer Hill & Smith Inc. to implement steel traffic barriers on sites all across the state. At least 15 projects have been completed using Hill & Smith’s Zoneguard® portable steel barrier solution so far.
“No one in Missouri had ever looked into getting it and utilizing it,” said Joe Simon, project manager at TraMar Contracting. “We took that leap.”
BLANCHETTE MEMORIAL BRIDGE
That leap has proven successful on the $33 million Blanchette Memorial Bridge project outside St. Louis, where construction repairs began in February 2020. Made up of twin eastbound and westbound bridges, the Blanchette Memorial Bridge spans about 3,500 feet and carries I-70 over the Missouri River in the St. Louis metropolitan area. While the westbound bridge was rehabilitated in 2012, the eastbound bridge—originally opened in 1978—is now undergoing needed repairs including updated expansion joints, structural steel repairs, and new paint. To accommodate the construction, eastbound I-70 lanes have been moved over to the westbound bridge.
With the bridge seeing an average daily traffic count of 136,000 vehicles, MoDOT resident engineer Niall Jansson said the two year project is under an extremely accelerated schedule to minimize the impact to the public.
“Timeframe is the real challenge here,” Jansson said of the rehab, emphasizing the importance of proper coordination of the different repairs and shifts in traffic. “It’s just like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
With eastbound and westbound traffic combined onto one bridge, TraMar Contracting needed a barrier to separate the traffic and prevent head-to-head collision. Having used Zoneguard® on previous projects, the choice was easy, according to Steve Groene, project manager at TraMar Contracting. Now fully set up, the work zone features 6,800 feet of Zoneguard®, which meets NCHRP 350 and MASH crash test standards.
Groene said the biggest challenge TraMar faced early on in the Blanchette project was the thickness of the bridge deck at just 8 inches, posing the risk of poking all the way through the bridge deck or blowing out concrete on the bottom side. By partnering with Hill & Smith Inc. engineers, they were able to develop an alternative shallow anchoring solution, which MoDOT approved for the project. Ultimately this anchoring system is less invasive and damaging to the bridge deck.
“Sometimes we’ve gone out on anchored bridges and at the end of it, we say it looks like swiss cheese with holes all throughout the pavement,” Groene said. “As far as a long-term life cycle, this is definitely a savings to MoDOT and the taxpayers.”
A major selling point for using steel barriers on the project over concrete barriers was the weight, as the former are much lighter than concrete. Zoneguard’s light weight allows 750 feet to be hauled on one truck, compared to the seven trucks needed for the equivalent length of a concrete barrier. The light weight and efficient trucking helps reduce downtime and speed up the installation process, with up to 1,500 feet installed in one hour.
That speed of installation was crucial on the Blanchette project, Simon said. With limited nighttime working hours to get the barriers set up, TraMar knew they could implement the Zoneguard® quickly.
“With the speed of installation, it’s less invasive to the traveling public, and we’re putting our workers out there at risk for fewer hours,” Simon said. “We were able to get on the road, get the job done, and get off the road.”
THE BARRIER OF THE FUTURE
The steel barriers on the Blanchette Memorial Bridge continue to protect the motoring public and workers, with the rehab project slated to finish in summer 2021.
On the Blanchette project and others, the shiny steel barriers are catching people’s attention. From city personnel to other contractors, Groene says TraMar often receives calls from people interested in the solution and hearing what it’s all about.
“In general, people in Missouri are just curious about the new product and how it might benefit them on one of their projects they have coming up,” he said.
Groene said he hopes TraMar’s use of steel barriers in Missouri can be an example to surrounding states, like Illinois and Arkansas, that don’t allow products like Zoneguard® to be specified on projects just yet.
With increasing trucking costs and new electronic logging device regulations on truckers, Groene said the reduced freighting needed for steel barriers makes them a viable option for years to come. For TraMar, the efficient trucking afforded by Zoneguard® has already allowed the company to expand its services to a broader area across the state.
“We just see it as the barrier of the future,” Groene said. “We’re trying to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve.”
This case study was produced by Hill & Smith Inc. in partnership with Roads & Bridges.