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infinite_jim

Pierce Elevated - Love It, Hate It, or Other? (I-45 in Downtown Houston)

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OK I'll bite. It is perhaps the most annoying piece of concrete in the city to ride on a motorcycle, due to the subtle and repetitive arches of the spans.

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First, build toll roads above/below the Union Pacific tracks between US90A to the south and and Northwest Mall to the north, with a branch from there running underneath Buffalo Bayou into downtown. Connect directly to Hempstead Toll Road, Westpark Toll Road, and Fort Bend Toll Road. Connect to surface streets at W. 11th, Old Katy Rd, the Woodway/Memorial split, Post Oak Blvd., Richmond Ave., and Braeswood, then to Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive for surface street access along the east/west segment. This would double as flood control infrastructure.

Simultaneously, develop the Hardy Toll Road extension into downtown along Hardy Rd. and the Alvin Toll Road along the BNSF railroad tracks/Spur 5/Highway 35, with the Alvin Toll Road extending into downtown along the railroad right of way along the eastern periphery of "Eado". This alignment makes it easy to join up the Hardy and Alvin toll roads.

The purpose of these new toll facilities is to act as relief during phase two, which would be horribly inconvenient.

Phase II is to, reconstruct the following:

I-10 from Washington to US 59. Yes, I know that much of this was only recently reconstructed, but we should do it again, and do it right this time. Double-deck from I-45 to US 59.

I-45 from the North Loop interchange to Telephone Road. Double-deck the Pierce Elevated. Local traffic below, through traffic above. During reconstruction, connect the subterranian toll road along the Buffalo Bayou corridor, through the downtown municipal courts and post office sites, to the Hardy & Alvin toll roads so as to make the toll road network seamlessly interconnected.

For numerous reasons, I believe that these potential toll corridors and the potential for exanding I-45 and inner I-10 are the final frontiers for automotive transportation capacities inside the loop. We should exhaust these opportunities first and in one fell swoop because they are low-hanging fruit, and then begin investing in major fixed-route mass transit corridors.

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First let's try making East Loop the main lanes of I-45 and see how all patterns adjust. It might even help balance the Hardy Toll Road with North Freeway in the process.

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Yes, it's a scar that forever separates downtown from midtown.

First, divert all 45 through traffic around 610 and away from downtown. That would kill the main reason it exists -- it only has one or two exits. The remaining traffic would go around the North side of downtown using 59 and 10.

Double deck freeways are a recipe for awfulness.

Edited by woolie

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Destroy it - it's an eyesore - and build out the rest of the Buffalo Bayou Plan. Years ago, when they closed the Pierce Elevated for resurfacing, there were all sorts of dire predictions about traffic Armageddon. In the event, in a day or so traffic learned how to divert itself and the effect was almost negligible. As long as traffic can be diverted to the Loop or 59, the Pierce doesn't serve any really critical purpose.

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Destroy it - it's an eyesore - and build out the rest of the Buffalo Bayou Plan. Years ago, when they closed the Pierce Elevated for resurfacing, there were all sorts of dire predictions about traffic Armageddon. In the event, in a day or so traffic learned how to divert itself and the effect was almost negligible.

Niche's idea is what most likely will ultimately happen but I've shared Subdude's notion for a long time. Divert traffic to US 59 and deconstruct the elevated. Leave the blocks between Pierce and Gray open and landscape them into a linear park.

What makes this a fantasy? First, the one-way traffic along Pierce and Gray would have to be reversed for the two to serve as a grand boulevard which would have implications for all other parallel avenues and the freeway exit and on-ramps at the edges of the CBD. Second it would take governmental "resolve" not seen since the days of Hausmann in Paris or Mussolini in Italy to make it happen. As long as we are going totalitarian, demolish the old Sacred Heart co-cathedral and create a plaza in front of the new one. I don't think the Diocese would object too stenuously to that if costs were shared.

Obviously this is a pipe dream because of so many more reasons than what I listed. infinite_jim only said to discuss not come up with something practical. Still, the idea of a grand boulevard through the middle of downtown appeals to me. Think of what we have along Heights Boulevard only more urban. Let's be sure to leave spaces for food trucks and vendor carts. :)

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Niche's idea is what most likely will ultimately happen but I've shared Subdude's notion for a long time. Divert traffic to US 59 and deconstruct the elevated. Leave the blocks between Pierce and Gray open and landscape them into a linear park.

What makes this a fantasy? First, the one-way traffic along Pierce and Gray would have to be reversed for the two to serve as a grand boulevard which would have implications for all other parallel avenues and the freeway exit and on-ramps at the edges of the CBD. Second it would take governmental "resolve" not seen since the days of Hausmann in Paris or Mussolini in Italy to make it happen. As long as we are going totalitarian, demolish the old Sacred Heart co-cathedral and create a plaza in front of the new one. I don't think the Diocese would object too stenuously to that if costs were shared.

Obviously this is a pipe dream because of so many more reasons than what I listed. infinite_jim only said to discuss not come up with something practical. Still, the idea of a grand boulevard through the middle of downtown appeals to me. Think of what we have along Heights Boulevard only more urban. Let's be sure to leave spaces for food trucks and vendor carts. :)

I would be happy to see it go even without a linear park, but if there were to be a park between Pierce and Gray there is no reason why street directions would have to be reversed. It wouldn't be a grand boulevard but the effect would be the same.

Tearing down a section of freeway isn't unheard of - a number of cities have managed to do this kind of thing.

I thought originally the idea was to replace the old co-cathedral with a plaza. Not sure whatever happened to the idea.

While we're on wishing, I would like to add reverting the name of 'St Joseph's Parkway' back to Calhoun, and throwing a pie in the face of whoever came up with the idea of renaming it in the first place.

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While we're on wishing, I would like to add reverting the name of 'St Joseph's Parkway' back to Calhoun, and throwing a pie in the face of whoever came up with the idea of renaming it in the first place.

I've commented on street names before in other threads on HAIF. IMO that piece of concrete is not a "parkway" by any definition. Allen Parkway is a good example of one of course. While Mr. Calhoun may not hold as honored a place in Texas history as Fannin, Travis, and Austin, I'm also not in favor of casually renaming streets. I grew up in the Aldine area and it p----d off many people there greatly when a part of Stuebner-Airline was renamed Veterans Memorial Drive. The road was originally named, like so many in then rural parts of the county, for the families that settled there. Yes, the VA cemetery is located along that road but everyone knew that before the renaming. People aren't that dumb.

One final note: the original downtown Houston street grid designated the streets that run perpendicular to Main Street as avenues. Thus we have Texas Avenue, Rusk Avenue, Pease Avenue, etc. At the very least the renaming of Calhoun should have retained the word Avenue. It certainly is NOT a parkway.

I'm also aware that freeways have been demolished in some cities but off the top of my head I can't recall exact examples. I do have the notion that these were sucessful both in that the demolition did not make traffic worse and did go a long way to revitalizing the neighborhoods from which they were removed.

Somewhere in HAIF there is a thread that has a link to an article about the debate in the early 1970s over extending the LaPorte Freeway over Harrisburg Street all the way to US 59. Obviously that did not happen and probably never will but it appears to me that Harrisburg is not the blighted area some at the highway department thought it would become if the freeway was not extended. If you doubt that take a walk or drive down the street on a Saturday morning.

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I'm also aware that freeways have been demolished in some cities but off the top of my head I can't recall exact examples. I do have the notion that these were sucessful both in that the demolition did not make traffic worse and did go a long way to revitalizing the neighborhoods from which they were removed.

One of the more successful examples I can think of is the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco. Torn down after the earthquake wrecked it. Successfully reopened the waterfront to the rest of the city without massive gridlock.

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I avoid pierce elevated as much as possible.

It's interesting, areas where freeways that cut through neighborhoods 20,30 or even 40 years ago have not recovered, but areas of town that build up around freeways seem to work very well?

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One of the more successful examples I can think of is the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco. Torn down after the earthquake wrecked it. Successfully reopened the waterfront to the rest of the city without massive gridlock.

In Portland a waterfront freeway was demolished and replaced by a park.

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So is the point that the street (or parkway, if one insists) shouldn't take its historical name because it was named after someone who supported slavery? If this is so, should we not review the opinions of all persons who have had streets named after them, just to make sure they didn't support slavery or anything equally heinous? After all, Pierce didn't exactly set the world afire with anti-slavery zeal, and Polk was a slave-owner himself. Should we then rename those streets after local businesses?

My point was really just that I can't stand vanity renaming of streets or other features, especially to honor politicians or for marketing purposes. Once a city goes down that route it ends up with a rash of un-parkly "parkways", or even worse, entire neighborhoods with phony names that some marketing consultant dreamed up, like "Uptown" or "Eado". Is that really the kind of city we want?

Besides, while it is unfortunate that Calhoun was apparently a nasty fellow, I'd be willing to stake money that 99% of the population couldn't identify him to begin with.

End of rant - apologies for the diversion.

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So is the point that the street (or parkway, if one insists) shouldn't take its historical name because it was named after someone who supported slavery? If this is so, should we not review the opinions of all persons who have had streets named after them, just to make sure they didn't support slavery or anything equally heinous?

That is a problem with naming streets, buildings, parks, etc. after people. Many who may seem noble at the time could have their reputations tarnished through the telescopic lens of history. In the commercialzed society we live in I know there are at least instances where colleges and universities regret naming certain edifices after benefactors who later were shown to be no so honorable. I wonder if anyone in New York City government was ever approached about naming a park, for example, after Bernard Madoff in exchange for some cash for city coffers.

Thanks to those who recalled the freeway deomolitons in San Francisco and Portland. I've been to both of those areas (S. F. only last July) and I can attest they are truly nice neighborhoods now.

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So is the point that the street (or parkway, if one insists) shouldn't take its historical name because it was named after someone who supported slavery? If this is so, should we not review the opinions of all persons who have had streets named after them, just to make sure they didn't support slavery or anything equally heinous? After all, Pierce didn't exactly set the world afire with anti-slavery zeal, and Polk was a slave-owner himself. Should we then rename those streets after local businesses?

My point was really just that I can't stand vanity renaming of streets or other features, especially to honor politicians or for marketing purposes. Once a city goes down that route it ends up with a rash of un-parkly "parkways", or even worse, entire neighborhoods with phony names that some marketing consultant dreamed up, like "Uptown" or "Eado". Is that really the kind of city we want?

Besides, while it is unfortunate that Calhoun was apparently a nasty fellow, I'd be willing to stake money that 99% of the population couldn't identify him to begin with.

End of rant - apologies for the diversion.

Well, Calhoun Rd still exists over at UH. it turns into MLK once you cross wheeler...

UH even named some lofts after the road they are on, not so much the guy the road is named after.

either way, Calhoun appears to have been very pro slavery, Washington owned slaves as well, but I think you have to weigh what they did for the good of the country, against their not so good traits. reading through that wiki article, there's not much listed about Calhoun that seemed to be done for any other reason than to make slavery stronger. Maybe that's just how people have edited the wiki though.

Edited by samagon

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That is a problem with naming streets, buildings, parks, etc. after people. Many who may seem noble at the time could have their reputations tarnished through the telescopic lens of history. In the commercialzed society we live in I know there are at least instances where colleges and universities regret naming certain edifices after benefactors who later were shown to be no so honorable. ....

Enron Field.

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So is the point that the street (or parkway, if one insists) shouldn't take its historical name because it was named after someone who supported slavery?

Yes, it should be obliterated. Every inch of this taint should be jackhammered out or cut off with an acetylene torch.

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I'm still on the fence as to whether Pierce Elevated needs to be double-decked, submerged in a cut and cover trench, or snipped into a couple of spurs feeding into downtown/midtown.

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Yes, it should be obliterated. Every inch of this taint should be jackhammered out or cut off with an acetylene torch.

I can understand your POV, but don't you find it to be a moment of poetic justice that Calhoun Rd turns into MLK Blvd.? These are the teachable moments should remain as such for future generations.

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I can understand your POV, but don't you find it to be a moment of poetic justice that Calhoun Rd turns into MLK Blvd.? These are the teachable moments should remain as such for future generations.

in order to understand why society is where it is today, you have to understand where you've been completely. hiding from history, or blotting it out only strengthens the chance it will happen again in the future.

Edited by samagon

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Enough with the historical hand-wringing!

If we micro-examined the life of every person a street was named after we would end up with only 5 street names and sat-nav nightmare.

But just to stir the pot some more, be sure to check out the Confederate Angel in Heritage Park and the statue of Lieutenant Dowling (Confederate) in Herman Park. Oh the horrors!

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From Bloomberg, an article about tearing down freeways.

A growing literature trumpets the news that cities around the world are tearing down freeways.

The authors of these articles cite the Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront in San Francisco; the elevated West Side Highway beside the Hudson River in lower Manhattan; the Central Artery in downtown Boston; and the Park East Freeway near the center of Milwaukee.

The most conspicuous recent case has been the Alaskan Way viaduct that runs along the waterfront in Seattle, and where demolition started in late 2011. Outside the U.S., examples include the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto and the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul.

The usual conclusion drawn from these accounts is that these urban highways were a mistake from the outset and that they should be torn down to create spaces for people instead of cars. Unfortunately this reading of the story mischaracterizes what is actually happening and draws the wrong conclusions for current public policy.

In fact, very few freeways are being removed. What is happening instead is that a few ramps and dead-end road segments are being removed, and small portions of freeways, particularly elevated highways in sensitive locations, are being rerouted into tunnels or transformed into boulevards. In Boston, for example, the elevated highway was replaced by a tunnel, which is also the plan for Seattle. In San Francisco and New York, they were replaced by surface boulevards.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-11/hate-freeways-you-aren-t-doing-your-city-any-favors.html

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TxDot relocated an elevated section of 1-30 near downtown Ft. Worth a couple of blocks to the west about 10 years ago. There is now a suface street, Lancaster Blvd. in it's place.

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TxDot relocated an elevated section of 1-30 near downtown Ft. Worth a couple of blocks to the west about 10 years ago. There is now a suface street, Lancaster Blvd. in it's place.

Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer re-striped the lanes from four to two. "Super-Wide Lanes"

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TxDot relocated an elevated section of 1-30 near downtown Ft. Worth a couple of blocks to the west about 10 years ago. There is now a suface street, Lancaster Blvd. in it's place.

Actually, they demo'd the overhead portion of I-30 as it crossed the southern end of downtown and rebuilt it 2 blocks south, slightly south of the railroad track and the old railroad station. Lancaster Avenue, which was already there, but underneath I-30, similar to Pierce, was renovated and landscaped.

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Cool, they added a pedestrian lane. Maybe new mixed-use developments in midtown can have a second "mezzanine" level of freeway-facing retail. That shoulder would be great for al fresco dining.

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NOLA is actually throwing some money at studying whether to tear down the Clairborne overpass. It would suck if they pull the trigger on that before Houston figures it out.

I'm generally for tearing out the Pierce altogether and do a re-route, but would like to see some ideas on burying it. Double decking... bad memories of shitty double decking in Austin and San Antonio. Maybe, deck 59 around east side of downtown to connect to 10 and 45 north, but don't deck the Pierce. I use the Pierce Elevated (Scott to Allen Pkwy), and the surface streets of downtown, third ward and midtown daily in my commute, so it's a big deal for me. I would love to have better options for biking from the east end to montrose, and I would hope that getting rid of the overpass would force the hand on creating a better ped/cycling corridor through downtown.

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Funny that in this thread we talk about an elevated transit structure as "a scar", "an eyesore" that should be "destroyed" and "obliterated". . . meanwhile in multiple other threads over the years we read how elevated transit structures (if they carry rail) would save mankind. I exaggerate only a little. ;-)

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^ Totally agree. lol We can't just tear the Pierce Elevated down just cause it doesn't look appealing. I take the Pierce Elevated every single day and I can't even begin to imagine how bad traffic would be near the core of the city if it wasn't there. Even when I try to avoid the traffic on P.E. by taking I-10 to 59 and then back to 45, there is usually gridlock on 59 as well even around 10 to 11am. I just would not like to see all that traffic diverted to 59. That would be a nightmare. Secondly, I haven't even read every single comment but if you get rid of Pierce E., what do you make of 45? The whole point of that interstate is to connect Galveston to Houston to Dallas. If you remove Pierce E., you're going to have a gap in the interstate, imo an unnecessary gap. I'm all for making the city look better but at least think of an alternative that's actually logical. Perhaps Houston's own Big Dig? Could be a disaster though during hurricane season...

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I've lived in Houston all my life and the Pierce Elevated doesn't bother me. I guess I don't expect every bridge in Houston to be the Fred Hartman. Maybe we can get Santiago Calatrava to design us a cable stayed Pierce Elevated with less bounce due to less expansion joints from less support columns. We could even have the tower shaped like a cross to match the St. Joseph Professional Building.

Those of you who think the Pierce Elevated is bad now, who remembers when it was in its original early 60s configuration? All you'd hear is "kathunkkathunkkathunkkathunk" while driving over it, and the travel over it was a bit bouncier.

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I-45 as a park through the western part of downtown...

So you're saying leave all the structures in place and just put some sod down? I like it for the cost efficiency! All it would take is a couple of crews of immigrant laborers maybe two weeks and Presto! We could have our own version of the High Line park in NY to go with our own Central Park! Cool - Maybe on Pelican Island we could put the Bagwell/Oil Derrick/Space Shuttle statue at the entrance to the Ship Channel and have our very own Statue of TX Liberty and Ellis Island! (Pelican Island was an immigration station after all)

The ultimate NY copy-cat triumvirate!

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**** it.

just close all freeways inside of 610. make 610 10 lanes wide for each direction.

put in a subway (cause I like their $5 footlongs) at each light rail stop.

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**** it.

just close all freeways inside of 610. make 610 10 lanes wide for each direction.

put in a subway (cause I like their $5 footlongs) at each light rail stop.

You forgot to put the wall on the inside of your 10-lane 610. That way all the nasty suburbanites for sure have to stay out of the promised land as they zip in circles around it.

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You forgot to put the wall on the inside of your 10-lane 610. That way all the nasty suburbanites for sure have to stay out of the promised land as they zip in circles around it.

I like your thinking.

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You forgot to put the wall on the inside of your 10-lane 610. That way all the nasty suburbanites for sure have to stay out of the promised land as they zip in circles around it.

Ringstrasse! Sehr gut.

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While we're dreaming, here's my idea:

 

Phase 1: Build a new sunken highway along the railroad right-of-way extending from Highway 59 just south of Buffalo Bayou to I-45 near U of H.  Put the rail lines below grade too so they don't divide the east side of town.

 

Phase 2. With Phase 1 relieving some traffic, shut down Highway 59 from the I-45 intersection to just south of the bayou, rebuild it below grade, and cover it to create parks and/or commercial property.

 

Phase 3. With Phases 1 and 2 relieving traffic, eliminate through traffic on the Pierce Elevated.  Maintain some existing ramps that connect I-10 to downtown on the west side.  Keep the existing Pierce Elevated structure (maybe narrow it by 50% at parts) and convert it to an elevated park (like NYC's High Line) with elevated connections to future residential & commercial properties and running & bike paths that connect to existing bike paths near I-10 and to future paths heading toward U of H.    

 

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I've lived in Houston all my life and the Pierce Elevated doesn't bother me. I guess I don't expect every bridge in Houston to be the Fred Hartman. Maybe we can get Santiago Calatrava to design us a cable stayed Pierce Elevated with less bounce due to less expansion joints from less support columns. We could even have the tower shaped like a cross to match the St. Joseph Professional Building.

Those of you who think the Pierce Elevated is bad now, who remembers when it was in its original early 60s configuration? All you'd hear is "kathunkkathunkkathunkkathunk" while driving over it, and the travel over it was a bit bouncier.

 

I seem to recall some media coverage around the time that the rebuilt Pierce Elevated reopened indicating that it wasn't supposed to be as bouncy after the reconstruction as it turned out. The general contractor got a performance bonus for every day that they were ahead of schedule when the project was completed, and it was either implied or stated outright that the bounce was directly related to corners being cut to ensure that work was completed well ahead of schedule. 

 

Does this jog anyone else's memory, or am I misremembering the details? An online search only yielded this report on rapid bridge replacement techniques, with the info related to the Pierce Elevated on page 95.

Summary No. 17: I-45/Pierce Elevated, Houston, Texas

The Pierce Elevated, built in 1961, had reached the end of its useful life and needed to be

replaced. To mitigate motorist complaints TxDOT provided the public with extensive

information prior to the start of work so that travelers could make adjustments to their

routes. Money for the project was received from the federal bridge replacement and

rehabilitation fund.

Demolition, by Penhall Co., removed 1.64 miles of the existing three-lane structure in

just 17 days. Traylor Brothers won the construction bid, and work was contracted under

a plan that called for work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a penalty/bonus of

$53,000 per day. The decision to use pre-cast bents, constructed offsite, was made

because of limited space on both sides of the construction project, the accelerated

schedule, and repetitive nature of the work. Tops of the existing piers were saw cut to the

appropriate elevation and the lower portions reused. The new pre-cast pier caps were

anchored to the top of existing piers via post tension bar dowels. Dowel drilling and

placement took an average of 2 hours per bent. Pre-cast inverted “T” caps and deck

panels were used to help reduce onsite construction time. The time saving resulted in the

northbound project finishing seven days ahead of the 95-day schedule. The contract for

the southbound lanes, treated as a separate project, operated in much the same way. But,

an additional penalty of $3,500 per day late fee for going beyond the 325-day contract

length for the entire project (north and south bound) was included. The southbound

portion was re-opened 23 days ahead of schedule.

Reference:

Feldstein (1996a), Feldstein (1996b), Johnson (1997), Sallee (1997) and Vogel (1999)

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Mkultra25, yes, I recall. The irony of it all was, part of the point of the rebuild was that it would get rid of the bounce.

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