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    September 20, 2013
    Planes, Trains, & Geofoam

    DENVER—ACH Foam Technologies has provided EPS geofoam for several construction projects in the Windy City—among them, Millenium Park, Soldier’s Field, and most recently—the Gary-Chicago International Airport roadway expansion and the Metra 35th Street train station accessing White Sox US Cellular Park.

    As part of the airport’s roadway expansion, a two span steel bridge had to be built over the EJ & E railroad tracks that bisected Airport Rd near Chicago Ave. This was project number 6 of 18 work segments that comprise the Gary-Chicago International airport expansion— scheduled for completion mid-September of 2014.

    Superior Construction won the general contractor position, and Superior’s Pete Keilman acted as Project Superintendent for the roadway expansion bridge. According to Keilman, the bridge had to be built over 2 existing rails as well as 2 future rails. There was a potential problem with the quality of soil where the bridge was to be built, as well as an embankment that might require purchase of additional right-of-way.

    In the initial investigation it was discovered that the soil where the bridge would be built was questionable. The preliminary analysis found soil about 12 feet down that contained a large percentage of peat, which would settle over time. It was decided that geofoam was the preferred alternative because the material would distribute the load and prevent any future settlement of the roadway.

    According to Keilman, placement of the geofoam blocks went well. His crew of five to seven men were able to cut a trench through the geofoam which would carry a storm sewer pipe for 400 feet on each side of the bridge approach.

    “We hadn’t done this before,” he explained. “ Engineers provided detailed drawings we followed on the jobsite, and ACH Foam provided a hotwire that would easily cut through the foam. We also used a chain saw and a smaller saw in various sections.

    “Once we had the foam down and the sewer pipe in, we laid a single matt of rebar, then poured 6 inches of concrete on top of that. Two feet of stone topped the concrete, and that stone was surfaced with a foot of asphalt. The bulk of the geofoam embankment was installed in the fall of 2012; more geofoam was installed this spring for a total of 43,000 cubic yards of Foam-Control® EPS Type 22 geofoam.”

    A trucking company to the east had its property line too close to the bridge embankment to allow for the slope that would have been required by conventional soil fill. Vertical geofoam embankments made purchase of additional right-of-way unnecessary.

    Oracle Engineering was the Geofoam Design Company for the bridge expansion.  Oracle’s Marvin Cook, an EPS design engineer for projects all over the world, considers geofoam design and installation the preferable alternative to addressing soil problems for conventional fills. “We place utilities in EPS all the time. For this roadway we installed the sewer pipe directly in the geofoam material. The easy way to cut a trench is to use hotwire on the jobsite. Using geofoam as an alternative fill reduces, and in many cases eliminates completely, the loading against bridge structures as well as adjacent roadways,” Cook added.

    With regard to settlement issues on the Gary-Chicago roadway, it was estimated that stage one primary settlement of the soil could take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Using geofoam eliminated that settlement time, so the closure only lasted weeks instead of months. The Airport road was reopened in November of 2012.

    ACH’s Frank Kiesecker says geofoam is being used in transportation projects with greater frequency. “Once it became common knowledge that geofoam weighs about 1/100th the weight of soil and saves money and time for installation as well as road closures,” Kiesecker explained, “the Federal Highway Commission began to require DOTs to compare cost and time savings using geofoam vs soil and other alternatives.”

    During the 2010 design phase for the station platform, architects had safety concerns about the elevation of the American with Disabilities (ADA)-compliant concrete. In addition, the aggressive construction schedule wouldn’t allow for the settlement time conventional soil fill would require.

    Architects turned to EPS Type 12 Geofoam to solve their design challenges and shorten the construction time. According to Dan Orlich, Metra’s Construction Manager, “A great amount of time and labor was saved by not having to compact the lifts of traditional fill. Compensating for the drains within the ramp cells was a snap because on site cutting of the Geofoam was so easy.” 31,300 cubic feet of Foam-Control® EPS Geofoam with Perform Guard® termite resistant treatment was installed as stairway and ramp fill for the Metra’s 35th Street Station platform at the Chicago White Sox Stadium.

    Meeting tight construction schedules has been a key benefit to using geofoam in many projects. John Grskovich of General Contractor John Burns Construction explains, “John Burns Construction continues to use ACH Foam Technologies as our geofoam supplier because they are so responsive to our schedules.

    About ACH Foam Technologies

    For over four decades ACH Foam Technologies has been an industry leader in EPS manufacturing, providing products for construction, geotechnical, packaging, and industrial applications. With locations throughout the U.S., ACH is positioned to offer convenient, valuable, and complete solutions for its customers. ACH recycles 100% of its post-industrial EPS and is actively involved in recycling post-consumer EPS as well.

    Contact us for more information on ACH Foam Technologies and its products and services.