Conti Enterprises Inc. – Direct Connection Project

ContiRoute2954 copyConti Enterprises nears completion on phase two of New Jersey’s Interstate 295 project.

By Kat Zeman

Although the entire $900 million Direct Connection project isn’t slated for completion until fall 2021, phase two along Interstate 295 in New Jersey is nearly 70 percent complete.

Edison, New Jersey-based Conti Enterprises is one of four general contractors charged with construction improvements along the busiest and most congested interchanges in New Jersey. Conti is a multinational developer and builder of complex facilities and heavy civil and transportation projects for both the private and public sectors.

Conti’s portion of the mammoth-sized project involves the reconstruction of Interstate 295, Interstate 76, New Jersey State Route 42 and affected roadway segments traversing the boroughs of Camden County.

“It’s going to provide tremendous congestion relief to the commuters of south New Jersey and greatly reduce traffic accidents,” Project Manager Greg Kerrigan says. “We have 250,000 vehicles traveling throughout and accidents were four times the state average in the old configuration.”  

The original interchange, constructed between 1958 and 1961, was insufficient to accommodate current traffic volumes and travel speeds. In addition, failing levels of service on the interchange ramps, combined with the congestion of local streets, adversely affected the quality of life in the surrounding communities.

“It’s called the Direct Connection because currently traffic north and south on Interstate 295 does not continue through the interchange,” Kerrigan says. “You have to get off the highway and then get back on. It’s a really goofy movement of traffic causing a lot of those accidents.”

Building Bridges

Direct Connection is a federally funded project orchestrated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to improve traffic flow and safety along the ramps and bridges that carry Interstate 295 traffic across Route 42 and Interstate 295. Conti’s $152 million contract involves reconstructing the roadway; installing new utilities, sound walls and overhead signs; asphalt work; and strengthening existing soil conditions underneath structures.

Overall, the project includes more than six acres of ground improvements, 186,000 tons of new asphalt, excavating more than 500,000 cubic yards of soil and installing 30,000 square feet of sheeting. Some of this work calls for restriping, and barrier and sign installation along Interstate 295 along with building three bridges. Construction on two of the three bridges is complete. Conti Enterprises box

When the third bridge is completed in 2018, it will allow all Interstate 295 northbound traffic to travel through a 500-foot-long tunnel. “And then there are some ground improvements,” Kerrigan says. “They are extensive because it’s a very swampy area with substandard soil and the bedrock is too deep to be feasibly reached. So it’s an extensive ground improvement scope.”

Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers, a New York City- based geotechnical and foundation engineering firm specializing in excavations, tunnels and dams, was contracted to re-engineer the tunnel. The original design called for large structural beams, called King Piles, which are driven deep into the ground.

“The King Piles were difficult to get and it was identified as a risky procurement,” Kerrigan says. “Mueser Rutledge played a big role in the project. They proposed an alternative design and identified an inefficient element of the original design resulting in multimillion dollars in savings.”

TRC Solutions, a New Jersey-based national engineering, consulting and construction management firm providing integrated services to the power, oil and gas, environmental and infrastructure markets, was also involved in the Direct Connection project. “TRC’s expertise in pile driving analytics provided Conti with valuable pre-planning analysis as well as real time testing and results during execution,” Kerrigan says.

Long-Awaited 

Conti restricted loud construction activities to designated timeframes to limit disturbing nearby residential neighborhoods and visitors to an adjacent cemetery. It designed and constructed an embankment system to prevent movement in the cemetery.

Once the new overpass is complete, it will provide three to five new travel lanes on Interstate 295 in both directions to cross Interstate 76 and Route 42 at speeds of 55 miles per hour to relieve congestion.

NJDOT has been developing and analyzing alternative ramp configurations for Interstate 295 for many years. It wanted Interstate 295 traffic to be able to travel directly over the interchange without the need for lane changes or exit ramps. The effort put forth between NJDOT and its contractors is monumental compared to other NJDOT projects and represents one of the largest investments into the transportation infrastructure in South Jersey.

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