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$150M Nelsonville Bypass Project Nears Completion

Thu June 21, 2012 - Midwest Edition
Mary Reed

The completion of the US 33 Nelsonville Bypass project currently under way in Ohio boasts the largest single investment — up to $150 million — made by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

The Department was able to award contracts for the completion of the Athens County job five years earlier than anticipated, thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

When completed, a notorious bottleneck will be removed, given ODOT estimates that over 1,700 trucks travel US 33 daily between Columbus, Ohio, and Charleston, W.V., making that stretch the eighth busiest truck route in Ohio. At present almost all these trucks go through Nelsonville, where the four-lane highway narrows to a two-lane local road.

Completion of the third and final phase in October 2013 will complete the corridor, an ambitious project that involves construction of 8.3 mi. (13.4 km) of four-lane highway and relocation of 2.2 mi. (3.5 km) of State Routes 78 and 691.

“The entire corridor involves 14.8 million cubic yards of excavation and 10.5 million cubic yard of embankment. For the ARRA-funded projects (Phases 2 & 3) the totals are 11.3 million cubic yards of excavation and 8.6 million cubic yards of embankment,” said ODOT Project Engineer Daniel McDonald.

There are 18 bridges included in the corridor —eight sets of twin bridges on US Route 33 and a single structure piece on State Route 78 and State Route 691, he added.

The bypass also features three types of wildlife crossing, developed in coordination with Wayne National Forest, through which a large portion of the Nelsonville Bypass Corridor passes. Consequently, this job had a higher emphasis placed on environmental commitments than typical roadway projects normally would.

“This spring a subcontractor will be in to set the 28-foot by 11-foot precast arches that will be used as a wildlife crossing. The wildlife crossing will allow wildlife to safely cross from one side of the roadway to the other without interfering with vehicular traffic,” McDonald said.

“Also, all of the right-of-way fence along mainline is 8-feet high fencing as opposed to the typical 47-inch fencing. There are also several ’wildlife jump outs’ designed that will allow deer to escape the roadway should they somehow breach the fencing. The jumpouts use a vertical grade separation at the fence line using gabion baskets. The inside of the fence, towards the roadway, will be higher and the deer will simply be able to jump down out of the roadway alignment, but will be discouraged from using it the other direction due to the vertical face and the narrow entry point,” he added.

In addition, an amphibian crossing has been constructed under the new alignment of State Route 78 in an area where wetlands exist on both sides of the roadway alignment.

“I’ve been told that certain amphibian always return to the location where they were born. To allow for this, a pipe was placed at 0-percent grade to allow the tadpoles to migrate to the other side of the roadway,” McDonald said. “There will also be two runs of precast concrete structures with grates over the top so the amphibians can cross back to the other side when they mature into adults. There are specially designed headwalls that will funnel the amphibians into these structures.”

The Nelsonville area had a thriving coal mining industry in the early 1900s, leading to the town’s nickname of Little City of Black Diamonds. The decline of the industry and the lax regulations of the time led to mines being abandoned as they stood. To avoid highway subsidence and for safety reasons, grout is being used to fill abandoned mine voids.

ODOT Project Engineer McDonald described the process.

“This work involved drilling holes at a fixed pattern and then filling the voids full of grout. They began by drilling holes around the perimeter of a particular area and then pumping in a stiff stackable grout mix which we referred to as barrier grout. This essentially created an underground dam at the perimeter of the roadway that could hold back a more fluid grout. Then the holes were drilled in the center of the previous holes and a thin fluid grout mix was pumped in that would fill every small crease and void that was encountered. Afterwards, confirmation holes were drilled to ensure that the grout did fill in the voids as intended.”

“Although all the holes indicated on the plans have been drilled, not nearly as much grout as originally anticipated has been used, due to the fact the designers assumed the mine operations removed a larger percentage of each coal seam than was actually taken," he said.

As of June 2012 crews on Phase 2 were preparing the roadway base for pavement and performing some bridge work. They expect to be completed by this fall.

On Phase 3 grouting work is being wrapped up, grading the subgrade has begun, and bridge work is ongoing. CEG

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