F.H. Paschen – I-90 tollway project

FH Paschen I 90 picDemonstrating success on projects like Chicago’s I-90 roadway and bridge reconstruction project helps set F.H. Paschen apart.
By Eric Slack

F.H. Paschen has become one of the leading general contractors in the Midwest by providing full-service construction services on hundreds of projects in the public and private sectors. The company has built its reputation since 1984 through the construction, rebuilding, renovation and repair of everything from bridges, commercial properties and municipal buildings to major highways, private institutions, transit systems and more.

“The company has grown over time to include several different divisions, including building, job order contracting, heavy highway civil and underground,” Vice President, Civil Division Mark Barkowski says. “Most of my division's projects are public works projects for various entities in and around the Chicagoland area.”

Taking a Toll

One of the many projects that F.H. Paschen has taken on in recent years is the I-90 Northwest Tollway roadway and bridge reconstruction project with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. Providing general contractor services and self-performing many aspects of the project – designed by Crawford, Murphy, Tilly – the company has brought its extensive road construction and bridge experience to bear on this project.

“The I-90 project started about four years ago and is part of the tollway’s Move Illinois plan for rebuilding I-90 from Rockford to the western limit of Chicago,” Barkowski says. “It initially took about two years for around 26 miles of roadwork, and we did about 35 percent of the highway over that period. This is our fourth year on the program, and this contract is about $75 million and includes 10 bridges being knocked down and rebuilt and 150,000 square yards of concrete paving.” FH Paschen box

The project went to bid in October 2015, and construction started in the early part of 2016 on part of the project with the second part starting in June. The entire stretch of this project should wrap up by November.

“This stretch of highway is very tight and the area has been built up,” Barkowski says. “Many contracts from the previous year are still being completed, and they’ve occupied a lot of infields that are needed for mobilization, stockpiling, batch plants and more.”

With limited space available, F.H. Paschen had to put together a roll-out plan that would allow it to work from specific interchanges and build the whole job from those locations. 

“Delays from the previous year meant we had to figure out how to deliver that concrete paving in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner,” Barkowski says. "With the help of Ozinga, we picked a location between the two aspects of the project that allowed us to set up a concrete batch plant in the middle of I-90. This was unique for us to have a plant self-contained inside of our corridor and outlined by concrete barrier walls while we work within that space in the middle of the highway.”

To make sure the project can proceed, F.H. Paschen has worked closely with the toll authority and other companies working on additional projects taking place in the area to coordinate schedules, traffic changes and other issues. “There has been a lot of coordination with contractors getting into our work zones even as we work on our part of the project,” Barkowski says. “This year represents the final phase of the project, so it has an aggressive schedule that requires a lot of effort to bring everything to completion.”

At present, the company still has several bridges to complete on the project. Additionally, it is pouring around 2,500 to 3,000 cubic yards of concrete per day as part of the paving work. Although it requires long hours and cooperative weather, everything was on schedule and on budget for F.H. Paschen in September. The company is working closely with all of its partners to make sure the project continues to move at a strong pace, and it understands the importance of keeping everything moving in the right direction.

“This entire tollway corridor is challenging, as it has a lot of traffic and is the busiest stretch of the tollway system, located nearby to O’Hare Airport and the city,” Barkowski says. “To build a project successfully in one season, it requires that you raise the bar to complete everything faster and work according to aggressive schedules. You need the right contractors and the right goals in place so you can be united and work around any issues. We’ve focused on safety and quality, which helps the schedule and the bottom line.”

Moving Forward

Although there is much competition in and around Chicago, F.H. Paschen is confident it can continue to succeed thanks to service diversity and extensive experience. The company can self-perform extensive amounts of the projects that it takes on, and it is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that its cost, quality controls and safety controls continue to help it stand out in the crowd.

In the years ahead, the company believes there will be ample work opportunities, especially if the Illinois Safe Roads Amendment passes. It is a constitutional amendment aimed at ensuring that public funds intended for transportation are actually spent on transportation. 

“That will help spearhead capital programs that will be fully funded and make sure money is not diverted,” Barkowski says. “There has been very little negative response and an overwhelming support from all stakeholders in support of this much-needed constitutional amendment in Illinois.”

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