Demolition and Site Development for the Ohio Turnpike Commission Vermilion Valley and Middle Ridge Travel Plazas

In early 2001, the Ohio Turnpike Commission retained Independence Excavating to handle the demolition, site work and construction for Vermillion Valley and Middle Ridge Travel Plazas. These would be the largest travel plazas built by the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

Demolition of the former plaza facilities

Demolition of the former plaza facilities

Independence Excavating faced a number of challenges in the project. Aggressive scheduling called for demolition and construction to be completed in only 15 months. Many phases of work - such as demolition, utilities, grading and paving - had to be done concurrently. Timing was also an issue. The project took place over two construction seasons, which meant that most of the paving had to be completed in the first season to allow enough time to finish the balance of the paving in the spring. Since the original plaza structure had fuel facilities, Independence Excavating would have to deal with fuel-contaminated soils and the associated environmental regulations. Rainy conditions in spring 2002 and an additional 10 percent increase in contract scope from project bulletins further complicated the task at hand.

Aggressive Scheduling Calls for Subcontractors

With such aggressive scheduling, Independence Excavating knew that they needed a quality team of subcontractors to finish on time. Independence Excavating evaluated subcontractors based on performance, professionalism, commitment to safety, and pricing. Eventually, they selected over 18 major subcontractors and over 24 different suppliers.

  • Demolition: B&B Wrecking
  • Concrete Flatwork: Newcomer Concrete
  • Clearing: Midwest Land Clearing
  • Concrete Structures: North American Cement
  • Survey: Kusmer & Associates
  • Paving: Kokosing Construction—Middle Ridge
  • Boring: Leon Riley, Erie Blacktop—Vermilion Valley
  • Fueling Systems: Petro-Precision
  • Pavement Sealing: Midwest Pavement
  • Guardrail/Fence: Lake Erie Construction
  • Striping: JD Striping / Akron Precision
  • Irrigation: Carefree Maintenance
  • Landscaping: Fred Azar Landscaping
  • Gas/Air Lines: Tom Foster Construction
  • Water Tank: Pittsburgh Tank & Tower
  • Site Electrical: Superior Electric
  • Domestic/Fire Pumps: Trombold Equipment

The contract called for a superintendent and full-time safety representative on site at all times. Independence added a general foreman for each plaza to provide oversight of daily activities and help coordinate subcontractors.

Independence Excavating held weekly progress meetings and provided daily look-ahead schedules to keep the Ohio Turnpike Commission and Dick Corporation, the contract administrator and construction manager, informed of construction progress. This also assisted the Ohio Turnpike in coordinating work and maintaining the schedule.

Innovation Through Coordination

An overhead view of the Ohio Turnpike plazas

An overhead view of the Ohio Turnpike plazas

To provide the owners with a top-quality job, Independence Excavating had a dedicated foreman at each plaza to coordinate the crews. This made it easy to identify and report potential problems to the owners and engineers. Good coordination also allowed the team to shift efforts to a different area or task while a problem was being resolved, avoiding needless construction delays. As a result, Independence Excavating offered many valuable engineering alternatives and solutions at no additional cost to the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

Environmental Hazards Create Detours

Independence Excavating hauled off 26,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils for disposal

Independence Excavating hauled off 26,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils for disposal

Independence Excavating needed to pay close attention to environmental hazards when they completely replaced the existing plaza sites. The old fuel facilities left some surrounding soils with contamination. These areas had to be excavated, and 26,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were hauled off to a disposal facility. In the process, Independence Excavating also removed cold war era bomb shelter reinforced basements, over 6,000 linear feet of utility lines, and foundations from a sewer treatment plant and water tower.

Weathering the Seasons

Weather offered unique timing challenges to Independence Excavating because the project extended over two construction seasons. To stay on schedule, they had to finish most of the paving in the first season, so that the remainder could be completed in the spring. Independence Excavating prioritized paving responsibilities according to size. The team began with utilities in the truck parking lots that contained the majority of asphalt paving, and moved on to the fueling system installation. Crews then completed the paving for fuel tanks, islands and concrete pavement, allowing the building contractor access to the canopies. Independence Excavating worked together with subcontractors to stay on top of the project. By fall 2001, Independence Excavating had completed the required paving and they were a month and a half ahead of schedule on utility and dirt work.

When spring 2002 arrived, wet weather further complicated the construction progress. Independence Excavating still had the task of installing the curbs, sidewalks, pavement, topsoil, seeding and utilities. But it was one of the wettest springs on record, with some months recording over 20 days of rain. To compensate for weather delays and meet the deadline for opening day, crews worked six days a week and often 10-hour shifts.

In the Fast Lane with GPS

This was the first time Independence Excavating used GPS to improve on-the-job efficiency and accuracy. With GPS, one person could quickly locate and layout new structures, grades, pipe inverts and other site details that would normally require a full survey crew. Bulldozers equipped with GPS equipment could cut the subgrade within a tenth of a foot without the help of grade stakes or grade checkers. GPS made it possible to dump and place stones for the new aggregate base with no grade stakes required.

An additional benefit of GPS was the detailed as-built drawings. The GPS could identify each bend in the waterline, sewer invert, structure location, and the exact location of sleeves with coordinates and elevations - a level of detail not common to as-built drawings. Independence Excavating had the as-built drawings scanned and saved on a compact disk with a reference legend for easy use by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and their maintenance divisions. That meant an entire set of prints could be accessed without having them take up space.

Appearance on the Ground Counts

Independence Excavating cared about the appearance of the site, not just the construction. This dedication shows in their decision to place screened topsoil around the building structures. They could have used stockpiled topsoil, which was less expensive and already the standard fill for outlying areas. But stockpiled topsoil would have needed grooming from heavy equipment such as dozers and rockhounds, exposing newly made curbs, walks and patios to tire markings and other unsightly blemishes. Instead, Independence Excavating chose screened topsoil because it could be dumped and spread quickly with only a few pieces of equipment, and provided a better finished product.

Turning Residents into Fans

Independence Excavating safely removed the old fuel facilities and installed new fuel tanks

Independence Excavating safely removed the old fuel facilities and installed new fuel tanks

Independence Excavating made every effort to keep nearby residents happy. During construction, their team responded quickly to several issues, including those involving noise and dust. Additional fencing and a mound near the back of Middle Ridge Plaza helped reduce noise and secure the properties. Independence Excavating put a priority on dust control, and regular water truck spraying kept the dust in check. By the end of the project, the residents had no complaints over the construction, and a number of them were quite satisfied with how Independence Excavating addressed their concerns.

Balancing Extra Work with Deadlines

An increase of more than 10 percent in the contract due to extra work in the course of construction made it more difficult to meet assigned deadlines. During the project, over 100 requests for information were submitted. Independence Excavating received more than 90 bulletins requiring a change in the scope of work and more than 60 extra work orders directing new tasks at an agreed expense.

Independence Excavating had less than three months to get approvals and handle construction on the largest bulletin, a new 100,000-gallon water tank and booster pump system. This system had to be in operation for the plazas to open. To move the paperwork through fast, Independence Excavating and their subcontractors expedited submittals and had them quickly reviewed and approved by the on-site architects. Independence Excavating hand-delivered building permit applications to the State offices in Columbus, Ohio and walked through to get the necessary approvals for construction. During this review process, Independence Excavating shifted their efforts to installing additional waterlines, valves and vaults to avoid lost time. The team also constructed foundations for the water tank and pump house to have them ready once the materials were completed.

The Results

Site preparation for the new plazas included excavating, placing and compacting over 115,000 cubic yards of dirt. Crews installed 17,200 feet of storm sewers, 70 storm structures, 71,200 feet of underdrains, 3,300 feet of sanitary sewers, 9 sanitary structures, 3,900 feet of waterlines, 25,500 feet of utility sleeves, 7,500 feet of gas lines, and 530 feet of boring and jacking under the Ohio Turnpike. After the utilities, Independence Excavating added pavement and walk items including 34,500 cubic yards of aggregate base, 53,800 cubic yards of asphalt pavement, 11,800 square yards of reinforced concrete pavement, 8,200 feet of curb, 5,500 square yards of sidewalk, 8,200 feet of guardrail, 15,000 feet of fencing, 122 new parking lot lights and four fueling islands with concrete barriers.

Careful project management and collaboration with subcontractors allowed Independence Excavating to incorporate all changes without requesting an extension to the completion date. The plazas opened within one week of the projected opening date.


Amherst, Ohio


Demolition and site development for Vermillion Valley and Middle Ridge Plazas on the Ohio Turnpike, where 115,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved. Challenges included weather, scheduling and shifting requirements.

Services Performed

Project Management

Managing many subcontractors demands experience and understanding of the entire project.


Custom engineering allowed the Firelands RMF to remain fully operational during construction.