In what’s being described as a unique project for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), construction is moving ahead on a roughly 11-mi. (17.7 km) section of Interstate 59 in Etowah County. The project involves an unbonded concrete overlay including bridge raising and widening on I-59 from south of the Attalla north city limit to the bridge over County Road 276 (Stephen Gap Road) at Duck Springs.
Approved to provide a smoother road surface, increased lane widths and safer driving conditions, the $45 million project has already been delayed, due to design flaws in grade and crossovers. Weather also has been a factor.
“The especially harsh winter has not helped, since warmer temperatures are needed to pour surfaces,” said ALDOT spokesperson Rebecca White. “We’ve also seen a significant amount of rain which causes runoff, and delays work schedules.”
According to ALDOT First Division Engineer Johnny Harris, “Trying to coordinate a project like this is always a concern, what with the different types of work involved in doing the concrete paving. The wet weather over the last several months hasn’t helped either, and the hot summer months that lie ahead could also prove difficult. Plus, you always expect problems when you close down two lanes of a major four-lane interstate and compress into one.
Harris stressed that the work is a priority, “This definitely needed to be done now. It’s one of our major routes through the state. The 1960’s construction has outlived its design life and needs rehab work to make it safer for the motoring public.
“This is the first unbonded concrete overlay project in Alabama we’ve ever undertaken,” Harris continued. “It’s basically a new roadway on top of an old roadway. Each concrete layer operates independently.”
Work isn’t expected to be completed for more than a year.
Scott Adams, Concrete Division Manager of Kentucky-based general contractor Hinkle Contracting Company LLC, said, “As the prime contractor, we are self- performing all the concrete paving. Our work here started June 2010 and we are currently scheduled to finish in October 2012.”
As far as the biggest challenges associated with the project, Adams explained that, “The pavement rideability specification is one of the toughest in the country. And overlaying an existing roadway with new cross slopes and new profile is tough. We are running an average of 10-hour day shifts about six days per week. We work seven days, at times, if we were weathered out early in the week. Traffic is currently running on the southbound side while we reconstruct the northbound side.”
Asphalt paving overlay mix and concrete paving finish surface mixes are being used as part of the process, according to Adams.
“The asphalt layer serves as a bond breaker between the old pavement and the new concrete pavement. Gomaco concrete pavers and placers are being utilized to place the concrete pavement,” he explained.
Subcontractor Good Hope Contracting Co. Inc. of Cullman, Ala., is placing the asphalt bond breaker, while RaCON Inc. of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is performing the grade work.
Good Hope Senior Vice-President John Brown said placing the bond breaker involves precise measurements.“The thickness is from one and a half inches up to 12 inches in the super elevations. This plant mix material is polymer modified and is to correct cross slope and provide the correct grade for the concrete to be placed. Our tolerances are from zero inch high to one quarter inch low. We used a Pave Smart grade- control system to obtain these results with a minimum of milling to correct high spots.”
Brown explained, “We also paved the crossovers and required widening. We started paving in July 2010 and have essentially completed our work on the northbound lanes. Once Hinkle has completed the concrete paving on the northbound side, we will repeat the process on the southbound lane.”
Good Hope crews are using a Roadtec RP 190 paver, a SB2500 Roadtec Shuttlebuggy and Cat 564D rollers with Superior brooms. They have already placed in excess of 50,000 tons (45,359 t) on the polymer modified leveling course on the northbound roadway and anticipate approximately this much on the southbound roadway.
“Our biggest challenge is the stringent tolerances on the leveling course,” added Brown, “but so far we have exceeded expectations using the Pave Smart grade-control system.”
RaCON has been on the job since August 2009. Project Manager Richard Brown said crews are responsible for all earthwork activities on the project.
“This includes the notching of the shoulders to widen the roadbed, then placement of borrow material to complete slopes and shoulders. Once the entire pavement has been placed, then we will go back and pull up the shoulders,” Richard Brown explained.
Equipment for the tasks includes a Caterpillar D6R, Caterpillar D6N, Komatsu 400 excavator, Caterpillar 140H and an Ingersoll Rand SD100. An estimated 120,000 cu. yds. (91,746 cu m) of borrow material will be used.
Richard Brown said the most difficult part of the task at hand has been the establishment of the grades and profile, which forced a delay in the project.
“It’s also worth noting that this stretch of the interstate has had a life existence of over 40 years. This was the first ARRA job let in Alabama. It entailed excavation, asphalt paving, concrete paving, clearing and grubbing and bridge raising and widening,” he stated.
Transportation officials say the public impact of the I-59 project includes lane closures, the narrowing of lanes, two-lane traffic, an exit closing, wide load detours and alternate routes. Motorists may also notice an increased law enforcement presence.
According to White, “There are seven phases in the project. We are near completion of Phase II now and into III which should be completed this summer. Motorists will experience two-lane traffic with no passing as the northbound and southbound lanes, respectively, are closed for construction during the project. During certain phases, any accidents in the project work zone will shut down both lanes until the traffic accidents are cleared. During all phases, drivers are urged to comply with posted speed limits and allow safe following distances to reduce the potential for accidents.”
In what’s certain to cause traffic headaches, planned ramp closures at Exit 188 during certain phases will impact the public’s ability to enter and exit I-59. As in all roadway construction projects, the public should anticipate delays especially during high congestion times during the day. The thousands of drivers who travel the area each day are being encouraged to adjust their travel times, consider taking alternate routes, slow down in work zones and observe the posted speed limits. The construction also will affect businesses in the area. Goodyear, Honda and various manufacturers are all located in the work vicinity.
“The I-59 project in Etowah County, after experiencing both design and weather related delays, is moving forward,” explained Transportation Director John Cooper. “Work will progress at a meaningful pace to reach the new projected completion date in late 2012.” CEG
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