APAC-Southeast Inc. has just begun a $28.8 million concrete rehabilitation and safety enhancement project on state route 400 in two Georgia counties. The project is part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) 10-year Interstate and Limited-Access Rehabilitation and Safety Program.
Work will occur on 37 mi. (59.2 km) of roadway along GA 400 from Interstate 85 in Fulton County to State Road 306 in Forsyth County. Contractors will begin construction near Haynes Bridge Road on GA 400 and will move south on the southbound side.
Construction of bus lanes will be contained to the area between the North Springs MARTA station and Windward Parkway. Crews will work in the daytime, and to lesson the project’s impact on peak-hour traffic, GDOT has restricted lane closures to weeknights and weekends.
In addition to pavement rehabilitation, work on the project, which began September 10, 2004, includes limited repair and replacement of bridge joints on the estimated fifteen bridges within the project. Mickey McGee, Metro District Construction Engineer, said the bridge work is a small portion of the project, and it is “minimal work resealing the joints on the bridges.”
Additionally, 12-ft. (36 m) concrete shoulders will be constructed to allow bus access, and guardrails will be upgraded to meet existing safety standards; this includes the addition of reflectors. Crews will also replace existing overhead signs with highly reflective ones for increased visibility.
McGee also added striping, pavement markers and a glare screen to the list of items that will be performed on this portion of GA 400. According to McGee, the 27-in. (68.6 cm) concrete glare screen will be installed on top of the concrete median divider. Its purpose is to block the glare that drivers face at night from the headlights of oncoming traffic.
Other features of the project include the installation of ground-in rumble strips and reclaiming and expanding the roadside recovery area by removing vegetation from I-285 to the Fulton-Forsyth County line.
Numerous accidents occur each year, and fatalities are twice as likely to happen, as a result of vehicles running off the roadways and hitting trees. The trees and underbrush growth that are targeted for removal are in the median and along the edge of the highway and have grown up since the roadways were originally built.
On GA 400, from I-285 to the Forsyth County line alone, there were 106 crashes with 43 injuries and one fatality during the period 1995 to 2002 because of vehicles running off the road and hitting trees.
There has been some contention within the local community regarding the removal of trees, but McGee is quick to point out that GDOT is only removing vegetation that was planned for in the contract and nothing else.
“Nothing has changed,” said McGee regarding the initial discussion with the community about the vegetation removal. Preliminary figures show that an average of six ft. (18 m) will be removed during the GA 400 project.
Clearing vegetation from the recovery area will decrease the number of injuries and fatalities caused by hitting a tree, will improve sign visibility and sight distance around curves, and will eliminate the possibility of trees falling across the roadway during inclement weather. Furthermore, GDOT will be able to reestablish drainage ditches, which will improve the overall drainage of the roadway and prevent flooding of the roadway.
The vegetation removal is a small but important part of the entire safety program on GA 400, costing $936,000, or 3 percent, of the total contract amount. APAC has selected Cheoah Construction Co., Robbinsville, NC, as the vegetation removal subcontractor.
Cheoah Construction, a woman-owned company, offers a variety of services, including land clearing and grubbing, grading, rip rap replacement and contract hauling.
APAC has been on the job for roughly two months. Jeff Woodward, GDOT’s area engineer, said that work on the project “is progressing along nicely.” Woodward also confirmed that APAC will be using milling machines and concrete pavers on the job, among other equipment.
Tree trimming is underway and should be finished by year’s end. McGee confirmed that the vegetation removal is “80 percent complete.” Contractors have also started grinding the pavement and guardrail work.
The Interstate and Limited-Access Rehabilitation and Safety Program is a statewide, ten-year program that began in 2001. It is intended to expand GDOT’s existing pavement preservation program by incorporating all feasible safety improvements into projects. GA 400 is one of many corridors that have been included in the program over the years.
“When we’re doing the work for rehab,” McGee said, “we try to include the vegetation removal and safety components into the other work.” This should achieve the agency’s goal of saving money and time.
“The goal of the 10-year program,” McGee added, “is to do all the safety elements within 10 years on all limited-access routes in the state, of which 400 is one of those routes.”
Work on GA 400 is scheduled for completion in fall 2005. Woodward mentioned an intermediate completion date of April 2005 for the concrete shoulder work. “They’re moving forward,” said Woodward.