IH794 – Building Highway Access Ramps with Geofoam

By: Pat Austin, Sales Representative


Over the past few years, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has endeavored to renovate Interstate Highway 794 in downtown Milwaukee.  This highway runs past the port of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan’s lakefront, over the top of the Summerfest grounds, and connects downtown with the south shore suburbs.  The Hoan Bridge, which carries the interstate over the Milwaukee River, was also renovated and will now grace the skyline of the city for decades to come.

When faced with the realities of building access ramps to the highway in conjested urban neighborhoods, the WI DOT chose Foam-Control® Geofoam as the fundamental building component.  Geofoam allows ramps and roadways to be built in an embankment design, with traffic loads concentrated vertically and no lateral load component.  The vertical sides of the geofoam embankment can be covered with concrete tilt-up panels, tied to the road surface on top and supported by footings below.  These panels can be light in design and they are not subject to lateral loading.

Foam-Control® Geofoam offers other benefits in these applications as well.  Blocks can be factory cut to create the required incline, stacked and stored on site or placed immediately, with very little heavy equipment required.  Once in place, no compaction is required.  Geofoam is largely impervious to the weather conditions – construction can proceed regardless of frost or other weather challenges.  All this combines to make geofoam a significant installation time saver.

IH794 now joins a long list of Interstate Highway embankments, including the I-15 reconstruction in Salt Lake City, completed prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.  This installation has been extensively monitored by the University of Utah, and deemed to be out-performing the parameters for settlement set by the designers.  Foam-Control® Geofoam – don’t ‘settle’ for anything less on your next highway embankment design.

About Pat Austin

BSIE from Marquette University in 1986, MSMSE from UW Madison in 1989. General contractor for 13 years before joining the ACH Foam team in 2007. Married to Kelly, with four sons.
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