The highway project to completely re-route and reimagine Indianapolis’ I-65/I-70 North Split interchange is winding down. Central Rent-A-Crane, a member of the ALL Family of Companies, has completed its work setting bridge beams for the project. A portion of westbound I-70 was opened to vehicular traffic in early October.
The original North Split was built nearly 50 years ago and became an infamous traffic tangle, earning the nickname “the spaghetti bowl.” Motorists routinely had to cross multiple lanes of traffic to reach their exits. The new project completely reconstructs the interchange, bridges, and pavement, and will have a smaller footprint. It improves safety by eliminating the weaving sections where traffic is forced to cross paths. Eliminating the weaves also removes the most severe bottlenecks in the interchange, allowing for improved traffic flow without adding new through lanes.
The project began roughly two years ago, then the interchange was totally shut down in May 2021. Central began its work in earnest September of that year. What they were able to accomplish in about a year’s time is staggering.
A look at the numbers makes the project’s massive scope immediately clear. A total of 390 bridge beams were set as part of 78 unique operations. Beams were set on 37 structures over 12 downtown streets, interchange infield, and dual-track CSX rail lines. September 2022 was the busiest month, with 62 beams set in that month alone.
Perhaps the most impressive number associated with Central’s involvement is zero. There were zero injuries, incidents or near-misses for the duration of the year-long beam-setting bonanza.
“When we were chosen for this project, our mindset was that we wanted to supply every crane and set every beam,” said Tim Welty, sales representative for Central Rent-A-Crane. “We accomplished that goal.”
It took much coordination to make happen. Not just with Central’s internal scheduling and securing the right-sized cranes for each job, but also working with project design-builder and general contractor Superior Construction and precast supplier Prestress Services.
“Sure, logistics would’ve been easier, in relative terms, if these lifts used 200-ton and 300-ton cranes,” said Welty. “But for most lifts, the minimum capacity was 350 tons, all the way up to 600 tons.”
Welty is proud that Central was able to supply the majority of the cranes directly from its own three Indiana yards. When necessary, they could rely on the whole of ALL’s vast national footprint and company-owned trucking service to fill in the blanks.
Before winding down their involvement in the North Split, there was a final critical lift operation for Central to complete, involving setting bridge beams over CSX railroad tracks. Reaching over the tracks required a series of dual picks using two massive all terrain cranes, Liebherr LTM 1500-8.1 and Liebherr LTM 1400-7.1. Their capacities are 600 tons and 500 tons, respectively. The 1500 had to reach over one of the piers to pick its end of the beams, requiring 164 feet of boom and the full 364,000 pounds of counterweights. The 1400 was configured with 135 feet of boom and 309,000 pounds of counterweights. Both also used Y-guying to further bolster capacity.
“We dual picked 12 beams over the tracks,” said Welty. “Then, we had a second set-up for 12 additional beams that the 1500 was able to single pick.” The difference was that beams could be brought closer to the crane for the second set of picks, dramatically reducing the work radius and capacity needed to accomplish the task.
Central’s crane work on the project was completed just a few weeks after setting the beams over the railroad tracks. The full project isn’t over yet, as paving, ramps, and guardrails are yet to be completed. Westbound traffic is estimated to be completely open by December, with the entire interchange open by next March.