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ALDOT Works to Clear Congestion on Memorial Parkway

Mon September 21, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Two projects under way on Huntsville’s heavily traveled Memorial Parkway will allow motorists to bypass more traffic lights and congested intersections on several newly built overpasses.

The jobs — one winding up on the south side of the city while the other is gearing up on its north side — are the latest in a series of 10 projects on the roadway since the first overpass was completed in 1969, said Johnny L. Harris, first division engineer of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

The main north-south route through Huntsville, Memorial Parkway starts out to the south as U.S. 231/Ala. 53 and adds U.S. 431/Ala. 1 then U.S. 72/Ala. 2 as it heads north through the city.

“The long-range plan is to have a free-flowing parkway, from north of town to south of town. We still have some gaps to fill,” said Harris, noting two other Memorial Parkway projects are under design now. “These are just the latest projects able to get funded.”

Huntsville contractors Reed Contracting Services Inc. and Miller & Miller Inc. are working together on the two similar jobs, though the companies’ relationship has changed from job to job.

“Miller & Miller is the subcontractor for the $5.2 million bridge portion of the roughly $16 million project on the south side, with Reed Contracting Services as the main contractor,” said Mark O. Seeley, project engineer/project manager of Miller & Miller.

“The overall project entails building retaining walls and four bridges as well as mainline paving and lighting on a roughly two-mile stretch of ’The Parkway’ from Meadowbrook Drive north to Lily Flagg Road,” Seeley said.

“Miller & Miller was charged with constructing the four mainline bridges — two over Weatherly Road and two over Whitesburg Drive,” said Seeley, whose company started work on the site in early 2008.

“We’re basically done with our portion now, and we’re on schedule,” he said.

The overall project is about 80 percent complete, said ALDOT’s Harris. The job was let in November 2007, with completion scheduled for early 2010, he said.

“Reed Contracting and Miller & Miller went in as a joint venture to bid on the second job, including roadwork, bridgework and lighting for a stretch of Memorial Parkway from Oakwood Avenue to just past Sparkman Drive on the north side of the city,” Seeley said.

“Miller & Miller’s piece of the $17.27 million job is about $7.3 million,” he said. “The company will build two mainline bridges, one over Sparkman Drive and the other over Max Luther Drive.”

The project was let in June using part of the federal stimulus funding to Alabama.

“The service roads allowing for the mainline improvements were completed at least three years ago, but there was a delay in funding to proceed with the next phase of work,” Harris said.

“Initially,” Harris continued, “Memorial Parkway was built as a four-lane road without service lanes, but improvement projects have generally been done in two phases: construction of service lanes to which mainline traffic is diverted, then modification of the mainline roadway.”

The current improvements to the parkway have been somewhat tricky to accomplish, according to Seely.

“Building the Weatherly Road and Whitesburg Drive bridges entailed working in an extremely tight spot and — in the case of bringing in and setting beams — within limited hours so as not to slow the flow of traffic. Sometimes the traffic was on the service lanes the whole time, and we were working in the middle, so we were working within five, six inches of a traffic signal,” he said.

Seely continued, “Because of the space constraints, construction had to be done in segments, setting the beams in phases and then working their way across. The beam work took place over 12 nights, some back to back, others spread out. We typically were able to set eight to 10 beams per night.”

To protect traffic traveling underneath, the contractor had to create a temporary traffic tunnel by placing plywood decking between the beams to completely deck over the traffic.

Miller & Miller generally had 10 to 15 workers on the job, organized in two separate crews, with a night shift to set the beams. The contract prohibited closing any traffic lanes until 7 p.m.

The company used 3,600 cu. yd. (2,752 cu m) of concrete on the job. A company-owned Putzmeister 32X was used to dump all the concrete for the sub- and superstructure.

“Miller & Miller owns all the equipment it is using on the jobs,” Seely said, describing the machines as a “mix of old and new of various makes.”

Cranes on the job include a Kobelco CK850, a Grove TM1400 and a P&H WLC 670, as well as some service cranes, a Grove 65S and Lorain 125.

Other equipment has included a Bid-Well 3600 bridge paver, a Komatsu 128 track hoe and a Genie S65 personnel lift. Seeley mentioned that the company is looking to purchase a second Genie S65 for the north-side work.

Adding to the army of heavy equipment for that job will be two diesel hammers owned by Miller & Miller — an I.C.E. S19 and a Kobe K25.

“Because some of the soil conditions at the site are different from the other job’s site, the bridges require pile-driven foundations,” Seely said. “Miller & Miller will be doing its own pile-driving work.”

Miller & Miller’s subcontractors on the first job included: Gilley Construction Co. of Manchester, Tenn., to tie the bridge deck to the superstructure; Concrete Builders Inc. of Huntsville, for forming the barrier rails; and CDF Inc. of Lebanon, Tenn., for the bridge grooving work.

“As far as the bridgework goes, there have been no delays or other factors that have increased costs,” Seeley said. “Probably because of the long delay between construction of the service lanes and the mainline upgrades, the traveling public is anxious to use the new road and that reaction to the work has been mostly positive. They’re ready to use it. We actually had some people cheering when we were setting beams at night because they knew it was finally coming to fruition.”

Seeley said his company was attracted to the projects by their location, adding Miller & Miller has been in Huntsville for 48 years.

“We like to keep our people close to home, and it was right at our backdoor,” he said. CEG

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