Metro-East News

Illinois 15 bridge project is at least $6 million over budget

The construction of the long-troubled Illinois 15 bridge project over Illinois 13 and the Illinois Central Railroad is expected to cost $20.5 million — $6 million more than the bid award, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Glen Carbon-based Keller Construction was awarded the project by the Illinois Department of Transportation in January 2012 for $14.4 million.

The state is incurring the higher cost after design flaws led to project delays during the work.

Lane reductions for the project went into place in 2013, and the project was initially scheduled to be completed in 2015. IDOT now anticipates the work will be completed by August of this year.

The project has been frustrating for motorists who have to travel through the area.

“I drive it, too. Believe me I know, and if you live out there, it’s been ridiculous,” said State Rep. Jay Hoffman, whose district includes the project area. “We built the interstate highway system quicker than they they’re doing this Route 15, or it seems like.”

“They just have to be, I think, more mindful that when they begin construction that the design is correct,” Hoffman added. “I’m not an engineer; I don’t run the department of transportation, but that (project) has been going on way too long.”

IDOT has said the project may end up in litigation; it will try to have the consulting engineers pay for cost overruns related to the delays and design flaws.

In the last year, one of the delays involved a temporary retaining wall that was needed before a permanent wall could be built. The retaining wall had to be removed and replaced.

“After the placement of the temporary wall it was discovered that the temporary wall was not low enough to protect the total excavation of the new (mechanically stabilized earth) wall 311,” according to an IDOT document. “The temporary MSE wall 311 began to settle and move while excavating for the new MSE wall 311. This necessitated the additional work to support the excavation below the temporary MSE wall. This required adding temporary sheet pile walls and a soldier pile wall to support the excavation.”

Design work before the construction of the new bridges was awarded to STV Inc. IDOT agreed to pay the engineering firm more than $667,000 for the design work.

STV did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The project was delayed as it was redesigned to make sure there was enough clearance over the Illinois Central Railroad. Additional work was needed to ensure soil would not settle near the railroad tracks, IDOT engineers have said in the past.

According to documents, STV used Belleville-based Kaskaskia Engineering as a subconsultant to develop a Roadway Geotechnical Report, and provide a soil analysis.

Kaskaskia was in charge of having soil borings done on the construction site, and IDOT even requested additional borings in 2011, according to state documents.

A draft report was planned and it was anticipated revisions would be made.

“This scope assumes one set of revisions from (IDOT) District Eight,” the consulting agreement says. “It does not include revisions related to updated design guides or geotechinical manual users issued after draft RGR has been submitted for review. (Kaskaskia) will utilize the most up to date design guides at the time of execution of this contract.”

Geri Boyer, owner of Kaskaskia Engineering, said her firm had a minor role early in the project.

She said Kaskaskia did analyze the soil samples, and provided the information to STV to use when designing the bridge over the railroad.

Boyer said her firm gave correct information to STV, and the information was vetted by IDOT.

Without saying whether there was any fault involved in the design of the project, Boyer said the project itself is very complicated, including the geometrics involved with the bridges, as well as heavy rains that saturated the ground.

“Every single project is unique,” Boyer said. “That is why you have engineers look at it.”

When a slope failure around the Illinois 15 bridge project occurred, Kaskaskia was called in to help come up with a solution, because the firm has expertise with those issues, Boyer said.

“I hate that people are picking it apart when they don’t understand how complicated it is,” Boyer said.

Work began in July 2012 for the staged removal and replacement of the mainline bridges of Illinois 15 over the railroad and Illinois 13 near Belleville. Lane restrictions have been in place since 2013, when IDOT began demolishing the eastbound side bridge.

STV Inc., the consulting engineers, stayed on the project and were responsible for the redesign work at their own cost, IDOT has said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter