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Granting an Extension — ALDOT's U.S.-98/SR-158 Project Takes Shape

Wed August 05, 2020 - Southeast Edition #17
Irwin Rapoport – CEG Correspondent

Cranes have played a key role in the placing of steel as part of the new highway construction on SR 158.
Cranes have played a key role in the placing of steel as part of the new highway construction on SR 158.
Cranes have played a key role in the placing of steel as part of the new highway construction on SR 158. Excavators and dozers have been crucial work horses in preparing the miles of new highway. This section is ready to receive its subbase. With tons of earth being excavated, loaders are constantly on the move to receive material to be taken to other areas of the work site to be recycled. Heavy rains have impacted the construction, but crews are pressing forward. With so much equipment on-site, project managers and superintendents have to keep a close eye to ensure that the work follows daily plans. A crane is lifting a concrete beam to be placed for one of the many new bridges being built on SR 158. A John Deere excavator is clearing a green field for a new section of highway. This aerial photo captures the terrain where crews are engaged in excavation activities. The area is home to the gopher tortoise, an endangered reptile. Before work could start, a check had to be made to remove tortoises so they could be relocated.

Work on the estimated $115 million U.S.-98/SR-158 Extension Project in Ala. began in September 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2023.

Thus far the DOT has awarded four of the seven contracts for the road and bridge infrastructure construction that is taking place in Mobile County. More contracts are expected to be signed in the next few years.

"ALDOT has continued working to complete designs, secure environmental clearances and purchase right-of-way to resume construction of the SR-158 extension that will connect to the new U.S.-98 that is partially completed," according to ALDOT.

"Due to BP funding, ALDOT has been able to move forward with the U.S.-98 and SR-158 project plans for constructing a two-lane facility from Schillinger Road to the Mississippi State Line.

"The project scope will include building the foundation and performing the earthwork for four lanes, paving two lanes and creating interchanges," it added. "ALDOT will pursue the ultimate divided four-lane design with fully functional freeway type interchanges as funding becomes available."

Katelyn Turner, ALDOT public information officer of the Southwest Region stressed the importance of the project.

"It will alleviate the heavy volume of large commercial vehicles, tourists and local traffic that frequent this route from neighboring states to reach I-10," she said.

The first segment extended the 366-ft. long, four span, Eastbound Bridge on U.S.-98 over Big Creek — a $5.5 million contract that was awarded to Tanner Inc and finished in October 2018. This work added 1,350 linear ft. of bridge, which was equipped with a runoff containment system and tall barrier rail for water quality and watershed improvement purposes.

The second section, beginning east of SR-217 (Lott Rd.) to Schillinger Road (1.5 mi.) in Semmes, started in April 2018 and is nearing completion. The $16 million contract was awarded to John G. Walton Construction Company Inc. The project (80 percent federal and 20 percent state funds) involved grading, drainage, pavement, and the construction of the two bridges over Seabury Creek and Rodgers Road.

The 2.7-mi. segment ($26.8 million) from East of Glenwood to West of Lott Rd. is being built right now by H.O Weaver and Sons Inc.

Construction for the Lot Road Overpass and Jug Handle element, $16.8 million, was awarded to McInnis Construction LLC whose crews started work in May 2020

"The department plans to take bids for the construction of the Wilmer-Georgetown Road Interchange as well as the Glenwood Road Overpass in year 2021, depending on funding availability," according to ALDOT. "The department has applied for a $25 million BUILD Grant through USDOT."

The building of the 250-ft. long, two-lane bridge on Glenwood Rd. is anticipated to be let in November 2021 and construction of the $11.1 million, 281-ft. long, two-lane bridge on Wilmer-Georgetown Rd. over U.S.-98 with Jug Handle will be let November 2020.

ALDOT is expected to let the final segment — Mississippi Line to 0.5 miles east of Glenwood — in September 2021.

ALDOT, to keep the public more involved and better informed about the project, established a Community Outreach Group.

"This group of private citizens has volunteered to work with ALDOT to ensure we are headed in the right direction," stated the project web page. "[They] assist us in providing feedback to plans, suggesting alternatives, asking pertinent questions and keeping the community informed. The group was recommended by an independent panel including members from Mobile County Government, Fish and Wildlife and the Chamber of Commerce. The creation of this Community Outreach Group and their independent selection is part of our continued commitment to a Safe98."

Johnny Walton, owner and president of John G. Walton Construction Company Inc., is pleased with the work that his crews put into the second segment.

"We paved the two lanes and the bridges have been built," he said. "All but the striping is done."

Michael Gibson, the firm's project manager, noted that one of the challenges was the environmental restrictions at Seabury Creek to protect vegetation and the endangered gopher tortoise from construction activities.

"We had to put up a fence along the right-of-way for either side to keep the tortoises from entering the work site," he said. "We ended up catching 10 to 15 tortoises. ALDOT's environmental officer out of Montgomery searched for tortoise burrows and set up traps to catch them. We had to check the project every day to make sure we didn't find any new burrows. The tortoises were relocated to a safe area through an environmental center to save them."

The work site was located in a sandy terrain, which posed no problems for the excavation and construction of the lanes.

"The rain didn't affect us because the soil was so sandy," said Walton, "unless it was pouring down rain. We just about worked every day there. About 500,000 cubic yards of borrow fill went into the project. We had slopes to contend with, but we had a real good erosion subcontractor in Parker Grassing Co. that sodded the slopes. They kept right behind us as we built the slopes, so we had very little erosion."

The bridge over Seabury Creek is 344 ft. long and one over Rodgers Road is 122 ft. long.

"It went smoothly," said Walton. "We had McInnis Construction LLC doing the bridges and they did a good job for us."

The deck pours for the concrete structures were done at night due to the hot temperatures.

"We did this so the concrete would not crack or dry up," said Gibson.

Earth work was a major element of the work and this was aided by a Komatsu 210LCi excavator and a Komatsu D51-i dozer that have built-in GPS systems.

"Building the model and using GPS equipment really sped the job up," he said. "We spent less time with layout and staking that saved a lot of time."

Average days had approximately 15 John G. Walton Construction Company and subcontractor employees on site. The subcontractors were C&H Construction for signs and guardrails, Ozark Striping Co. for striping, Turner-Wilson Fence Company for the tortoise fencing, T.K. Peavy & Son for concrete work, and McInnis Construction for the bridge work.

"McInnis was awarded the next job and has a big bridge to build and we're doing the grading work for them," said Walton, who pointed out that Rusty Goff is serving as the project superintendent

The company also employed a Volvo ECR235 DL excavator; a John Deere 310L backhoe; a Cat 416E backhoe; a Volvo L90 loader; rollers — a Hamm H11X and a Dynapac CC624HF; a Wirtgen 2000i milling machine; a Vogele 5203 paver; a Weiler E1250 BFV material transfer vehicle; a Komatsu GD655-7 motorgrader; a Superior DT-80J self-propelled broom; a Finn B-70 hay blower; a Ford F750 water truck; and a New Holland TN55 farm tractor.

"We had mechanics from our shop, but we didn't have any major equipment issues on this job," said Walton. "Most of the equipment was new."

John G. Walton Construction purchases and rents equipment from Tractor & Equipment Company (Komatsu), Thompson Tractor Co. Inc. (Cat), Beard Equipment Co. (John Deere) and Cowin Equipment Co. (Volvo). CEG

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