Interstate 80, westbound through Vallejo in Solano County, turns south as it carries its four lanes of traffic over the Carquinez Strait, and glimpses a view of the C&H Sugar Building on the opposite shore. Matching those four westbound lanes are four eastbound, that pass by the Phillips 66 Refinery on San Pablo Bay, as they descend toward the strait, with all eight lanes crossing over the water via the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge, aka the Carquinez Bridge.

This stretch of I-80 has carried tremendous volumes of traffic over the decades, more than 50,000 commercial trucks and passenger vehicles every day, and it’s taken its toll on the condition of the pavement. When Caltrans recently evaluated the condition of the roadway, they decided that not just repairs, but replacement was needed for this stretch of Interstate 80 between the City of Hercules and the town of Crockett in Contra Costa County.

A fleet of dump trucks, left, and mixer trucks, right, keeps the concrete flowing, ensuring the paving continues non-stop.

This section of I-80 is a critical interstate route, so prolonged work with long closures and reduced lanes wasn’t acceptable. In order to perform the rehabilitation work – the replacement of the stretch of Interstate 80 – Caltrans and general contractor Vanguard Construction put together a detailed, multifaceted plan to enable it to happen.

Bob Purdy of Vanguard Construction cited the exceptional support and relationship with the Caltrans District 4 Team. “It was thanks to the shared vision and close partnership with the Caltrans Team – Andrew Baskerville, Caltrans District 4 – Area Construction Manager; Bill Casey, Deputy Director of District 4; Bill Bornman, District 4 Construction Manager; and many more – that the entire project, and especially the Labor Day Weekend work, was able to succeed as well as it did.”

Vanguard’s Joel McKay, left, and Mike Hepner monitor the progress of the work as the Gomaco 2400 paves on behind them.

Vanguard Construction team members who significantly contributed to the successful management of the project include Project Manager Jon Alexander, NorCal Operations Manager Mike Hepner, and Superintendent Denny Gregory.

With strategic detour routing by Caltrans and the amassing of a fleet of concrete transport trucks to carry the concrete from the nearby batch plants, the plan was coming together.

The Vanguard Construction crew paving the new eastbound no. 2 lane of CRCP on I-80 works adjacent to the Phillips 66 Refinery, a mile from the Carquinez Strait.

As seen in the photo above, the project is adjacent to the Phillips 66 Refinery. Taking advantage of the available real estate at the refinery, Vanguard worked with Phillips to locate their four concrete batch plants for the project – two production plants and two back-ups – on the adjacent refinery property, which provided fast and efficient transport of the concrete to the job site, saving time and truck fuel, and ensuring delivery of fresh concrete.

The Vanguard crew breaks up and removes the old concrete pavement for transport to the nearby crushing plant for recycling and reuse as road base.

Vanguard also set up a crushing plant on the Phillips 66 property to recycle all of the old concrete pavement that was removed from Interstate 80. In consideration for the use of their property for the concrete batch plants, Vanguard provided Phillips with the ground-up, recycled concrete to use as base on the roadways throughout the refinery property.

The Table Was Now Set
With a broad-reaching multi-media campaign to notify the traveling public, Interstate 80 was closed, eastbound and westbound in strategic configurations, on four different summer weekends between mid-July and early September, including full highway closures of I-80 in both directions near Vallejo.

During the three 55-hour weekend closures and the big 104-hour Labor Day Weekend full highway closure, Caltrans and general contractor Vanguard Construction pulled off a minor miracle and successfully built a new roadway within a remarkably short period of time. These significant weekend closures reduced the “normal” construction schedule by nine full months.

Miles of rebar serve to reinforce the concrete forming the new no. 2 eastbound lane of Interstate 80.

The initial work during each lane closure over a weekend involves the removal of existing pavement and then replacing it with Continuously Reinforced Concrete Pavement (CRCP). Vanguard used two different mixes for the weekend work, with both designed to get the 400 psi flexural strength (for opening) within 12 hours. One mix used Type II cement, and the other, Type III cement, which was used in the majority of the work. They also used low- and high-range water reducers, as well as a hydration stabilizer when needed.

Last year, Vanguard replaced large sections of nearby State Route 242 using similar formulations in a coordinated project that only required two weekend closures, and the concrete has met or exceeded all performance expectations.

Now, thanks to extensive advanced planning, wide-reaching public notifications, and multiple rerouting options during the first weekend of closures, traffic was reduced by more than 50%. This helped enable Caltrans and Vanguard to accomplish a record volume of new concrete paving over a weekend closure. More than 5,000 cubic yards of concrete pavement were successfully placed during the first 55-hour weekend closure of the project, which took place from July 21st through July 23rd.

The concrete delivery trucks keep a steady supply of concrete flowing as the Gomaco paver matches pace.

The next two weekend closures on eastbound I-80 took place on August 4th and August 18th. Eastbound I-80 was closed and traffic was detoured beginning at the eastbound I-80/SR-4 interchange in Hercules. These closures started on Friday after 9 pm. and concluded on the following Monday by 5 am.

Final Closure Sets New Paving Record and Opens 12 Hours Early!
The full highway closure of westbound I-80 over the Labor Day Weekend was scheduled to start on Thursday, August 31st at 9 pm and last for 104 hours, concluding at 5 am on Tuesday, September 5th.

However, the Vanguard and Caltrans Teams powered through the weekend, expertly completed the project, and fully reopened Interstate 80 at 4:45 pm on Monday, September 4th, 12 hours ahead of schedule.

The extraordinary work over the Labor Day Weekend by Caltrans and Vanguard Construction compressed what would have taken 106 nightshifts over five to six months into just four days of round-the-clock work.

During the fourth and final weekend closure and reconstruction work on I-80, more than 22,000 feet of CRCP was placed – exceeding four miles – with 9,575 cubic yards of concrete. This sets a new record in volume of CRCP placed over a single weekend!

The Vanguard crew paves into the night, on their way to setting the new record of concrete pavement volume placed in a single weekend.

Bob Purdy acknowledged the great work by the Vanguard Construction crew and the exceptional subcontractors on the project. “It took a lot of team members, 170 in total, working efficiently together, to successfully accomplish the project work. Among those were eight excavation crews who worked simultaneously to remove the old concrete pavement, Camblin Steel had 40 workers installing the rebar, and 30 workers placed and finished the concrete,” Purdy detailed.

“Bay Cities Paving and Grading installed the asphalt base, a 0.25’ AC under the new CRCP,” he explained. “G3 Quality performed the onsite concrete testing, Western Traffic Supply handled the traffic control and detours, and Central Striping performed the striping work.”

The finishing crew smooths out lane no. 2 during the Labor Day Weekend closure work.

“In evaluating the plan for the project, our overarching goal was to minimize our workers’ exposure and minimize the exposure to the traveling public,” Purdy continued. “The initial schedule covered 150 nights of work with a projected completion in October 2024. Now, thanks to the switch to weekend closures, we’ll be able to complete all of the work (remaining striping and finishing projects) by November of this year.

“Thanks to the Value Engineering Change Proposal that we worked closely with Caltrans to implement, we were able to save Caltrans significant savings and deliver the traveling public a new, long-life highway a year early.”

A big thanks and a tip of the hard hat to Bob Purdy and Jon Alexander of Vanguard Construction for their contributions to this story, along with thanks and credit to Caltrans for the use of their photos.