$19M Project Should Improve Traffic Flow

Wed February 02, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle

After a delay of more than a year, a $19-million project to upgrade the Clinton-Raymond Road/Interstate 20 interchange is under way in Clinton, MS, near Jackson.

Mississippi’s financial problems forced diversion of the state’s transportation funds, according to officials.

The interchange is being reconstructed to improve traffic flow through the area. More than 3,400 vehicles travel through the area each day.

Reconstruction of the interchange started in 1998, with the relocation of the south frontage road and some immediate improvements to Clinton-Raymond Road.

Phase II of the project includes reconstructing the interchange and widening U.S. 80, which runs parallel to I-20, to five lanes from Clinton-Raymond Road to Springridge Road.

Construction began in September 2004 and is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2007.

According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, interchange reconstruction will include replacing several bridges over Clinton-Raymond Road, which will allow widening of the road underneath.

The project also called for the relocation of some ramps to the south to allow for a loop in the southwest quadrant. The loop will improve access to the interstate for southbound traffic on Clinton-Raymond Road heading east on I-20.

All ramp intersections with Clinton-Raymond Road will be signalized.

The additional lanes on U.S. 80 will aid the flow of traffic to and from Mississippi College.

Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman was concerned the project might not become a reality.

“My fear was that, because the bids were over the state engineer’s estimate, and because the legislature has diverted MDOT funds into the general fund, MDOT would further delay awarding the contract for the Clinton-Raymond I-20 interchange project,” said Aultman.

She added, “After the first round of bidding, the low bidder [Key Constructors] met with the stat engineer and went over the bid line by line. As a result, MDOT raised their estimate slightly.”

“At the second bid opening, Key submitted the same bid as the first, even though some prices had escalated since the previous bid opening. I had been in contact with MDOT Director Butch Brown and Commissioner Dick Hall and had also discussed the project with Commissioner Wayne Brown, when we were at a meeting on the coast,” said Aultman.

She said the second bid opening was still approximately $700,000 above MDOT’s estimate. Aultman added, “After the bid opening, I went to Commissioner Hall’s office and took him the news. He took the bid to the transportation commission and made the motion to award the bid, even though it was over the estimate slightly.”

Hall said the bidding process put them approximately a year behind schedule.

Clinton had a substantial investment in the project.

“The city was responsible for moving city utilities out of the rights-of-way for reconstruction. That project was completed about a year and a half ago at a cost of $360,000,” Aultman said.

A unique feature of the project, according to David Trevathan, president of Key Constructors, which is overseeing the interchange work, is building a detour bridge to be used by traffic during the reconstruction.

“We don’t usually build a detour bridge on the interstate. It has to be as strong as the other two bridges being replaced. We will start the bridge in late spring or early summer,” Trevathan said.

He said the detour bridge will be on the south side of the existing two bridges. It will remain operational for approximately 18 months.

“Normal interstate traffic will be on the bridge for that amount of time. Safety considerations and heavy loads must be considered. These factors call for a regulation-type bridge,” Trevathan said.

It will take until late 2007 to complete the interchange reconstruction, because there are so many different phases to handle the traffic, said Trevathan.

He said the biggest challenge is dealing with traffic, which involves getting people to slow down.

Key has brought on subcontractors for several jobs including dirt and asphalt work.

“At the peak of construction, we will have as many as 50 people,” said Trevathan.

Most workers are working 10 hours a day, five days a week. Some are working on Saturdays, too.

Trevathan said 350,000 cu. yds. (267,600 cu m) of borrow dirt from off site are being used in the project.

Heavy equipment at the site, added Trevathan, includes an American 5299 crane.

“Other than the 50-ton crane, most of the equipment is Caterpillar. All of it is owned,” he said.

Trevathan said approximately $4 million of the total amount for the project has been spent, thus far. “We’re a little ahead of schedule,” he added.

He noted the project has not been affected by rain or cold. When it’s cold, said Trevathan, “We just bundle up and go to work.”

Key Constructors, which is headquartered in Madison, has done most of the interstate work in the Jackson area in recent years.

“We take pride in doing a good job,” Trevathan said.

The company was started in 1975 and is licensed to work in surrounding states.