Rob Sabo
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

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October 10, 2011
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Northern Nevada business: Freeway job home stretch stress-filled

RENO, Nev. — Norm Bessler has given five years of his life to construction of the I-580 freeway, which runs from Mount Rose Highway to Bowers Mansion in Washoe Valley. Even though the work is nearing completion — the $400 million project is expected to wrap up in the middle of next year — Bessler and other construction managers with general contractor Fisher Industries say the job presents more stress and pressure than ever.

Nearly half of the 8.5-mile freeway has been paved, and crews are pushing hard to lay as much concrete roadway as possible before cold weather stalls work. Coordination and scheduling challenges keep Bessler and project Superintendent Mike Scronce working long hours. Fisher has approximately 155 working days left to complete the job.

With days off due to weather, Fisher expects to wrap up its work in August — but the team isn’t coasting down the backstretch and eyeing the finish line quite yet.

“To me, the finish of a job is the toughest part,” Scronce says. “ It is when you come down to trying to make all the different little fingers of the job come together into one spot. There is a lot to completing this thing, and completing it on time.

“When you start, you have got 1,000 days to get this whole thing built. Now we are down to the end, and before it was this broad spectrum. Now we are here, and the last six months of this thing is going to be the hardest.”

Fisher will be charged a penalty of approximately $42,000 per day for every day it’s over its working allotment of 1,056 days. Bessler says he won’t see the finish line until the roadway is laid.

“We got to get through the weather and get the road covered,” he says. “There’s still a lot of stress. We have got a lot of roadway that is finished, and now we need to cover and seal it.”

Concrete used for the roadway can’t get below 40 degrees for five days once it’s poured, so roadway work effectively will stop soon until the springtime.

“Once it starts freezing at night, the sub-grade freezes and you can’t place new roadway on it,” Bessler says. “That will shut it down. But we are hoping that the first week of November we are still placing finished roadway material.”

Paving challenges aside, Fisher faces an even bigger headache: Removing the concrete arch at the base of the dirt fill used to construct the massive Galena Creek Bridge. Fisher used the large temporary dirt platform to position cranes and falsework for construction of the arched bridge, as well as to haul material to the south end of the job.

Removal of the 12 stories of dirt began on Aug. 15. At the top, the fill over Galena Creek is 220 feet wide. The dirt, nearly 500,000 cubic yards — that’s about 4.5 million wheelbarrow loads — needs to be removed from Galena Canyon, as well as the concrete arch that’s channeled Galena Creek since mid 2008. Bessler says that over the past two years the dirt fill settled just one-quarter of an inch.

“It really held up well through the elements,” he says.

Removal of the dirt has been a fairly simple process. Crews must haul about 22,000 truckloads to the south end of the job, where much of it will be used to construct on and off ramps to Highway 395 at Bowers Mansion. About 8,000 truckloads of dirt have been moved so far.

But removal of the concrete arch poses a bigger challenge for the Fisher team. The arch measures 44 feet wide and is 22 feet tall. It runs along 400 feet of the creek and measures 30 inches thick. More than 9,000 cubic yards of concrete went into the arch and its footings.

It can’t simply be demolished due to the mess it would make in the creek bed, so the tentative plan is to saw-cut the arch into pieces and remove it in small sections. Fisher must remediate the canyon and creek bed to its natural state.

“It will be a challenge because we are deep in a hole, and we have got to break it up and not affect the environment and protect the creek,” Bessler says. “That will be the biggest challenge left.”

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 10, 2011 09:23AM Published Oct 10, 2011 09:21AM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.