Austin Widens Important Evacuation Route in Louisiana

Wed July 19, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Matt Matusek

Construction is under way to add two more lanes to an 11.5-mi. (18.5 km) stretch of U.S. Highway 171 in Louisiana. This part of U.S. 171 between the Sabine Parish line and Mansfield, a vital hurricane evacuation route, will be widened from two to four lanes.

“Traffic will be able to flow at a much better pace once 171 is complete,” said Bryan Jones, communication specialist of Louisiana TIMED (Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development.

“There will be fewer backups and delays during the next evacuation.”

The construction on U.S. 171 is part of an extensive effort to revamp the state’s essential evacuation routes.

Austin Bridge and Road, a part of Austin Industries, was awarded a $36.1-million contract and began work on the road widening in February.

“The job site was filled with forests,” said Lane Fouts, project manager. “It took loggers about three months to clear all the trees out.”

Approximately 50 employees from subcontractor Specialty Contractors are working 10- to 12-hour days on the beginning stages of the project. The company specializes primarily in dirt removal. Austin workers won’t be on the site until August, when cement work is scheduled to begin.

Specialty Contractors is using John Deere and Case tractors, along with Komatsu and Caterpillar excavators and Komatsu trucks to haul dirt from the job site.

So far, approximately 300,000 cu. yds. (229,000 cu m) of dirt has been cleared; that number is expected to be closer to 1.5 million cu. yds. (1.1 million cu m) by completion.

Approximately 800,000 cu. yds. (612,000 cu m) of dirt will be brought in for the embankment. Altogether, approximately 2.3 million cu. yds. (1.8 million cu m) of material will be moved.

“We are well ahead of schedule right now with all the pipe work, dirt work and clearing,” Fouts said.

The project is approximately 10 percent complete and a completion date is set for August 2008, according to Fouts.

“We are trying to our finish our evacuation routes as quickly as possible,” Jones said. “Most of our construction is taking place on the sides of the road, so hurricane traffic will not be impacted by this project.”

Cement stabilization work should begin in August, with 10 in. (25 cm) of cement filling the base of the road. Four in. (10 cm) of rock-base will make up the second layer, rounded out by 5 in. (12 cm) of asphalt.

Asphalt work is set to begin in November. Austin Bridge and Road will employ Cat motorgraders, asphalt compactors and rollers for the hot mix, and it expects to use 115,000 tons (104,000 t) of asphalt for the 11.5-mi. stretch of road.

The asphalt will be brought in by Madden Contracting, a local asphalt provider, and the concrete has been purchased from Builder’s Supply. CEG

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