Van Blaricum Road Culvert Replacement

Van Blaricum Road is a two-lane asphalt road on hilly terrain, located in Green Township, Hamilton County, Ohio. An unnamed tributary stream runs parallel along the west side and is near the road in a relatively deep ravine. An unnamed tributary running from east to west crosses the road via the existing culvert. The culvert crossing is on a sharp horizontal curve with vertical grades of about nine percent sloping downward from north to south. On April 17, 2017, heavy rains during an extreme precipitation event caused the embankment and culvert crossing of Van Blaricum Road to collapse, taking with it a large portion of the southbound lane of the two-lane road. The damage to the site was so extensive that it left a sinkhole approximately 45-ft in diameter and 20-ft deep.

Along with the evaluation of existing conditions, the design team began peeling the different layers of designs and repairs performed over the years by the County to address various maintenance and erosion issues at the project site. Document examination confirmed that the sharp curvature in the road and the paralleling stream near the culvert crossing had been an ongoing and costly maintenance issue in the past. The status of the existing stormwater system, before its failure, was examined and found to be in good condition. A detailed hydraulic analysis of the existing stormwater system did not find any design deficiencies either. All of the measures taken in the past to address bank erosion had followed adequate design guidelines and procedures.

Repairing the existing infrastructure and damaged roadway seemed to be the fastest and most economical way to move forward. However, further investigation of hydrological data in Ohio led the team to believe that there were substantial environmental changes that may have significantly contributed to the increased risk of flooding and likely caused the catastrophic failure at this location. Information published by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) shows that Ohio has experienced a significant increase in the number of extreme precipitation events. Published data from NOAA also show that precipitation in the spring months in Ohio is projected to increase by 10 to 15 percent in the future. Current trends seem to support these predictions as Ohio experienced the wettest year on record in the last 124 years.

The design team determined that to provide sustainable and long-lasting design solutions for the changing environment and for public safety, it is imperative to uncover the vulnerabilities of past design practices,  primarily due to the observed and predicted changes in the environment. Based on our investigations, the team concluded that the combination of a heavily forested watershed combined with more frequent intense storms have contributed to a substantial increase in the amount of mobile debris and likely partially or wholly clogged the existing 84-inch CMP culvert crossing the road which subsequently results in its failure. The combination of wetter springs and more frequent intense storms were also likely contributors to the persistent stream bank erosion problems at this location. Although debris, clogging, and erosive velocities have been included in past designs, recent changes in the environment in Ohio and elsewhere, have exacerbated their effects on existing vulnerable infrastructures.

The design team explored three design solutions for this project, which included repairing the existing system (with the exception that CMP conduits would be substituted with reinforced concrete pipe). Both of the other two alternative solutions involved restoring the existing stream to its initial natural open channel status and softening of the curvature of the channel to minimize the effects of bank erosion. One of the latter options (i.e., open channel options) proposed an 84-inch reinforced concrete pipe, and the other replaced it with a 12-ft by 8-ft, four-sided reinforced concrete box culvert. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hydraulic Engineer Center’s HEC-RAS River Analysis System was used to model all three options. The exasperated effects of debris due to the more frequent intense storms were hydraulically modeled by clogging the model opening by various degrees ranging from 25% to 75%.

The findings indicated that all of the three hydraulic systems investigated (including the existing system) met current design standards; however, when clogging was considered, culverts with the 84-inch opening failed by causing overtopping. This result again was a re-affirmation of the team’s initial observation. The final recommendation was to implement a 12-ft by 8-ft, four-sided reinforced box culvert with headwalls crossing the road. To address bank erosion, the team explored various options ranging from adding bank erosion protection (Riprap) to various retaining wall structures. Analysis of the soil borings at the project site revealed that the entire project site was located on a Cape formation interbedded with shale, lime, and slate, making it susceptible to slides. After investigating the site for susceptibility to slides and considering past persistent bank erosion, the team concluded that Drilled Shaft Cantilever Retaining Walls with plug piles would address both the slide and erosion problems and provide for a lasting solution with minimum demand for future costly maintenance repairs. A total of 360-ft of retaining wall was recommended for the project.

In addition to permitting requirements, the restoration of the channel to its original natural status generated steep channel bottom grades. With channel grades nearing 8%, channel water velocities reached very highly and erosive velocities of 20 feet per second. Various rock sizes were investigated for stability. Calculations showed that the typical size riprap would be unstable. After consideration of various options available, the project implemented CONTECH’s Armorflex, Class 40T erosion protection mat. Armorflex was also recommended because of its ability to support vegetation, which enhances natural aquatic habitat. The combination of removing the closed stormwater system built in the channel, the restoration of the channel to its natural condition with erosion protection suitable for vegetation growth, the team was able to meet the design goals and address environmental sustainability.

The Kleingers Group team, working with the Hamilton County Engineer’s Office identified the risks of traditional designs and explored new opportunities for improvements and recommended infrastructure design solutions that withstand the future more torrential storms. The observed increase in average precipitation and frequency of extreme storm events in Ohio questions the adequacy of our past storm infrastructure design practices and brings forward the notion that traditional stormwater infrastructure design practices of decades past may no longer be an adequate guide for the future. With the changing in environment, stream crossings with relatively heavier wooded watersheds are becoming more prone to clogging due to debris. The combination of wetter future springs and more frequent extreme storm events are making stream banks more susceptible to erosion and subsequent premature failure.

This project demonstrates that efforts, such as modifying transportation infrastructure to withstand the floods of the future and establishing early emergency planning, would be far less costly in the long run to implement now when compared to washed-out roads, culverts, and bridges, or lost property and lives. Identifying vulnerable infrastructures, due to the changing environment, and planning funding mechanisms and solutions will better serve our communities. The time is now to develop smart future planning and engineering solutions to address future storms and public safety.

Reimagining the I-71 and Western Row Road Interchange

Background

Located in southwest Ohio, the I-71 and Western Row Road partial interchange was constructed in the 1970’s with the primary purpose to provide access for visitors coming north from Cincinnati on I-71 to Kings Island Amusement Park’s parking lots.   The remaining adjacent land use was primarily farmland and undeveloped woodlands.  Since then, southwest Warren County has experienced explosive growth.  Both Deerfield Township and the City of Mason blossomed into sprawling residential subdivisions and a world class business park developed adjacent to I-71, specializing in high-tech and healthcare industries.

The Warren County Transportation Improvement District (WCTID), in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), the City of Mason and Deerfield Township, coordinated efforts to reimagine the

Addressing Safety was First Priority

First the project had to address the safety and congestion issues that already plagued the area.  In most cases the safety issues could be directly attributed to the heavy congestion along Western Row Road and Columbia Road.  The most significant issue was the spacing of the I-71 northbound ramp / Kings Island Drive signalized intersection with the Columbia Road signalized intersection along Western Row Road.  Numerous “fixes” had been applied to improve the condition, but the fact that the two signals were only 400 feet apart was the root cause.  The other safety issue on Western Row resulting in higher than state average crash rates was due to a 90-degree curve just east of Columbia Road.

Planning to Enhance Economic Development

From the outset of the project, Stantec worked with the WCTID and the City of Mason to develop a plan that addressed current safety concerns and peak traffic demands, while also enhancing economic development opportunities in the area.

Initial work that identified the need to bring the missing movements to the existing partial interchange was in the Southwest Warren County Transportation Major Investment Study (MIS) in 2005. That report projected a 635% increase in vehicle hours for the 2030 design year as compared to a 323% increase for the remainder of the OKI region.

In 2011, the project team began work to identify a preferred alternative from the three alternatives advanced from the MIS.  This process involved multiple stakeholder meetings within the business community, coordination with the City of Mason’s Economic Development Director and a public information meeting.  The resulting preferred alternative changed the ramp terminals from Western Row Road to Innovation Way and brought together the business community as a strong supporter of the project.

Stantec provided preliminary engineering with the development of various design alternatives and prepared an Interchange Modification Study for the preferred alternative.  Traffic simulation models were created for each of the alternatives with TransModeler to better understand where congestion was being relieved and what side effects might result from various connections.  The project team also completed all required environmental field studies, ecological base studies, hazardous material screenings, cultural resource investigations, and prepared a Level 2 Categorical Exclusion Environmental Document and all necessary waterway permits.

Interchange Design and Phasing

The project was completed in two phases.  The first phase relocated Columbia Road around existing retail businesses to provide adequate intersection spacing along Western Row Road between the I-71 exit ramp terminal / Kings Island Drive and the new the Columbia Road intersection.  This change alone made significant improvements to safety and congestion in the area.  Additionally, the I-71 northbound exit ramp was widened, the employee entrance to Kings Island was relocated and a nearby 90-degree bend in Western Row was softened to provide increased sight distance. Relocating Columbia Road required the extension of a 150-in. diameter corrugated metal pipe culvert at both the inlet and outlet. The depth of the fill over the end of the existing culvert and the extension at the outlet is approximately 25 feet. The supporting soils were not strong enough to support the total fill of 40 feet or the new full-height headwalls at the inlet and outlet. Therefore, stone columns were utilized to improve the bearing capacity of the soil. In addition, there were concerns about settlement of the ground supporting the end of the existing culvert and the possible creation of a low point in the culvert at the tie-in to the extension. To reduce the amount of settlement, a 15-foot depth of EPS Geofoam was used in the fill above the end of the existing culvert to reduce the weight of the embankment on the culvert.

Aesthetics were important in this phase of the project and were incorporated into several aspects of the project, including the retaining wall required to support the property of an adjacent business. The concrete face of the soldier pile wall utilized alternating formliner patterns with “frames” defining each pattern and the top of the wall.

The second phase added the missing I-71 southbound exit ramp and I-71 northbound entrance ramp.  To best serve the business community, the exit ramp ties directly to Innovation Way which parallels I-71 to the west and intersects with Western Row Road.  A new southbound entrance ramp from Innovation Way was also added.  Innovation Way was widened from two to four thru-lanes and turn lane adjustments were made along Western Row Road.  Additionally, an auxiliary lane was added on I-71 in both directions between Western Row Road and the SR-741 interchange.

To accommodate the new southbound exit ramp, the existing I-71 four-span concrete slab bridge over Western Row Road was widened to the west.  To avoid vibrations from pile driving interfering with sensitive testing equipment in a nearby firm, drilled shafts to bedrock were utilized to support the pier extensions and pre-drilled holes were used for the steel piles to bedrock supporting the abutment extensions. To accommodate the new northbound entrance ramp, a new four-span concrete slab bridge was constructed over Western Row Road to the east of the existing bridge. The outside face of the parapet on this bridge and the widened portion of the existing bridge were enhanced to show the City of Mason’s name and logo, welcoming visitors to the region. Three-dimensional letters and images mounted to the concrete face were utilized for the name and the logo.

Project Coordination

During construction it was essential that the public and key stakeholders were aware of traffic restrictions and that the Contractor worked around peak recreational events.  Two of the project neighbors were the Kings Island Amusement Park which hosts over 3.5 million visitors a year and the Western & Southern Open Men’s and Women’s ATP Tennis Tournament at the Linder Family Tennis Center held in August with nearly 200,000 spectators over the week-long event.   The maintenance of traffic plans were developed to make sure that lane closures and restrictions were minimized during the tournament week and that signage was clear for out of town visitors throughout the project duration.

The Project Team

Stantec served as the prime consultant on this project, with an excellent team of sub-consultants who helped make this project a success.  Other team members were Bayer Becker (traffic counts, signal design and landscaping design), Terracon (geotechnical services, Aerial Technologies (aerial mapping), SHA Engineering, LLC (assisted with traffic analysis), AMEC (ESA investigations and public involvement support), and Gray & Pape (cultural resources investigations).  For construction John R. Jurgensen Company was the general contractor for both project phases.

Award Recognition

The project was recognized by the Triko Valley Section of ASHE with the 2020 Donald C. Schramm Transportation Improvement Award in the over $5 million category.  The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Ohio also recognized the project with an Honor Award as part of the 2020 Engineering Excellence Awards.

The improvements at Western Row Road’s interchange with I-71 helped to unlock more of the potential of southwest Warren County by alleviating congestion and safety concerns and providing increased access to the interstate from all directions.  This allowed the interchange to better serve the residents, businesses and visitors to the area and will allow for the continued economic growth opportunities within the region

General Membership Meeting – September 29, 2020

This general membership meeting will be held virtually via Zoom. Visit our events page to register in advance for this meeting. Our Zoom account limits us to 100 attendees so please register in advance to secure a place.

There will be a general membership meeting (including an election for the new Board member and swearing in of the new President and Board). The 2020-2021 Board positions up for approval will consist of the following:

  • President – Aaron Muck
  • 1st Vice President – Brian Rhodes
  • 2nd Vice President – Joe Schmeltzer
  • 4th Year Director – Katie Dillenburger
  • 3rd Year Director – Terry Dull
  • 2nd Year Director – Todd Gadbury
  • 1st Year Director – TBA (see “New Board Member” below)
  • Past President & Regional Representative – Steve Mary
  • Secretary – David Emerick
  • Treasurer – Eric Kistner

This will be followed by a presentation by Nadav Marcus, Marketing Manager for RDV Systems, Inc. about innovative visualization and BIM software for infrastructure professionals. Highlighted will be the Road Safety Audit 3D platform, which uses a systemic approach to road safety based on precise virtual models of roadway geometry for both design and existing roads.

New Board Member – We have received one nomination for the open 1st Year Director position. Other nominations are welcome. Please email Tom Nicholson at tnicholson@pretekgroup.com with additional nominations. Because the outgoing board member (Steve Mary) is a consultant, a consultant is preferred to replace him to retain a balance of vendor, government, contractor, and consultant representation on the Board.

Best Regards,

ASHE Triko Valley Board of Directors

ASHE’s Spring Interchange Cleanup Event

Come out and join us on Saturday, April 6th at 10:00 A.M., for our first cleanup of 2019 at our adopted I-71/Route 126 interchange!

The Triko Valley Section of ASHE will be cleaning up the I-71SB entrance to Ronald Reagan Highway (Route 126) on Saturday, April 6thWe will be meeting at 10:00 A.M. at Rear Parking Lot of The Original Montgomery Inn in Montgomery.  We will start with a quick safety briefing and then car pool to the interchange for about an hour of cleanup.  The following will be provided:

  • Leather gloves                                  
  • Safety vests
  • Pickers
  • Trash bags
  • Bottled Water
  • Men Working Signage

Suggested attire includes sturdy boots, long pants, long sleeve shirt and hat.  Ages 12 years and up are welcome! (ages 12-18 will require special release form)

If you plan to participate please watch the Adopt-A-Highway Safety Training at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwTaEDNNFLA prior to event.

Please register online or contact Tom Nicholson tnicholson@pretekgroup.com or call 937.414.5925 if you plan to attend, so we can make sure we have enough equipment.