Crews Ensuring Smoother, Deer-Free Ride Along I-10

Mon January 15, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Brooks

Motorists traveling along Interstate 10 in northwest Florida near Marianna will soon enjoy a smoother ride with one less road hazard — deer.

Covering 9.2 mi. (14.8 km) on Interstate 10 from State Road 276 to State Road 71 in Jackson County, the $16.4 million road project includes milling and resurfacing, pavement markings, new guide signs, an upgraded guardrail, new edge draining and a 10-ft. (3 m) deer fence.

Anderson Columbia Company Inc., one of the largest highway construction firms in the Southeast, was the low bidder on the project. Its crews have built or rehabilitated thousands of miles of highways, roadways and streets in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

According to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Spokesperson Tommie Spates, the project started June 19 and is scheduled for completion in September. It is currently on schedule.

“It’s basically a resurfacing project,” Spates said. “We’re just redoing the roadway.”

While that area of Florida is just beginning to experience the boom going on in other parts of the state, Spates said this was a routine project that was on the FDOT maintenance schedule.

“The roadway was beginning to deteriorate some from the wear and tear and it was rough riding,” Spates said. “This will make a smooth riding surface for the general public. It’ll be a lot safer because you won’t have those ruts that would cause water to settle in and possibly cause hydroplaning.”

The new surface is designed to last for 20 years, but will likely begin showing signs of wear in 12 years and should be replaced after 15 years.

Gene Strickland, area manager and vice president of Anderson Columbia, said the project was just part of the normal repair cycle.

“These projects were done pre-Superpave,” Strickland said. “They still have Marshall mixes on them so it’s just time for them to be redone.”

Spates said new guide signage near the SR 71 and I-10 interchange where a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and a host of motels are located will be especially helpful for motorists because “that area is beginning to grow.” I-10 is the only major highway running east-to-west in northern Florida.

Currently, work centers on replacing a 4-ft. (1.2 m) deer fence with a new 10-ft. (3 m) fence. Brunswick, Ga.-based TJR Group Inc. is the subcontractor for the fence project.

“There’s a lot of areas where there’s a four-foot high fence and we have a lot of problems with deer jumping that fence real easily and they’ll be out in the interstate grazing,” said Tony Jackson, a senior inspector of Metric Engineering, the construction engineer inspector overseeing the job for the FDOT. “We’ve got to keep the deer off the interstate.”

Strickland said he didn’t think deer were that big of a problem, “but I say that and this morning I saw a dead deer on the side of the road.”

Strickland said two crews were working on the fence — one taking the old one down and another installing the new one. He said they have approximately 20 people working on the job currently. When the milling and paving starts, another 25 people will be added to the operation.

“You can only take so much fence down at one time because it has to be put back up,” said Strickland, adding there haven’t been any problems to date.

Also ongoing is some trenching work. They also are repairing approximately 400 ft. of ditch paving that was damaged and installing some edge drain.

“We’re putting some side drains in and fencing and it’s going pretty well,” said Philip Gainer, Metric Engineering’s vice president and director of north Florida construction. “We had some difficulties at first, but it’s actually going pretty good now. We have to have that edge drain in and functional before we can do the paving and milling.”

Darrel Burnett, Metric’s senior project manager, detailed some of the difficulties.

“One is the piece of equipment they brought wasn’t able to keep a straight line cut,” he said. “Some of that may have been operator, some of that may have been equipment. They’re digging through quite a lot of asphalt to get to the old drain. The other difficulty is there’s an existing drain down there that’s embedded in a gravel layer and our new drain is going so close to the edge of that that when we cut the new trench we’re actually undermining because the gravel from the old trench is falling into the new trench.”

Burnett said they are making adjustments and dealing with the old trench as they run across it.

Jackson said the edge drain system is 104,000 linear ft. (31,700 m) long.

Strickland said he expected to begin milling and paving in March, barring any unexpected surprises or weather delays.

“It should be a pretty straightforward job,” Strickland said. “This segment wasn’t in real bad shape. It seems like a pretty standard job.”

Once milling and paving begins, Strickland said they’ll use a Roadtec 12-ft. miller and Ingersoll Rand pavers and rollers, as well as Cat rollers. Some of the old material will be turned into a new mix and reused for drives and turnouts.

They’ll also employ a Caterpillar 325 excavator, a broom tractor and a Midland shoulder spreader. The company owns all the equipment it will use for the job, which calls for approximately 80,000 tons (72,600 t) of asphalt.

Jackson, who also called the job “pretty well simplified,” said the four-lane road will be milled approximately 3 in. (7.6 cm), overlaid with 4 in. (10 cm) of asphalt and then coated with 1 in. (2.5 cm) of friction coarse.

Of course, on any highway job, safety is always a concern, especially interstate work where cars and trucks are whizzing by going at least 65 mph. While there won’t be any detours during the course of the project, there will be periodic lane closures.

“No detours, but we will have lane closures,” said Spates. “It’s not going to be a big hassle. Over the Christmas holidays we did restrict the work. They weren’t allowed to work then so traffic was free-flowing. We will have one lane of traffic until the project is complete.”

Strickland said the project won’t impact local traffic too much because most people trying to get from one side of Marianna to the other don’t usually use I-10.

Spates said the project is being completed in conjunction with another road project to the west of Marianna, which goes from the Washington County line to SR 276.

“We’re doing a project, about the exact same project, about 11 miles immediately to the west. They have an adjacent beginning and ending,” Strickland said. “From where this job begins, there’s another project that ends. It’s a good size job that’s getting about 100,000 tons of asphalt on it.” CEG

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