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Key Autauga Creek Bridge Project Slated for June Finish

Fri April 29, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

A resurfacing and bridge replacement project involving a key section of highway in Autauga County is expected to be completed ahead of schedule, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The roughly $3 million project includes the planing, two-foot shoulder widening and resurfacing from a busy intersection at U.S. Highway 82 to Main Street (Hwy. 14) in downtown Prattville, and then along Main Street to U.S. 31 (Memorial Drive).

“This project replaces an antiquated bridge along one of the Prattville area’s main commuter routes,” explained Tony Harris, media and community relations chief of ALDOT. “It’s the second bridge replacement along Highway 14 in the Prattville city limits, and each bridge has been designed with a pedestrian walkway and decorative light poles.”

According to Harris, the Autauga Creek Bridge project also realigns a side-street intersection to improve lines of sight.

“This is taking place in a key area. Prattville, located just north of Montgomery, has been one of Alabama’s fastest-growing communities in recent years,” Harris said.

On the portion from U.S. 82 to downtown Prattville, the paved shoulder of each lane will be widened by two feet. ALDOT’s shoulder widening on two-lane state highways has already shown a 15 percent decrease in lane departure crashes, and further reductions are expected as more two-lane highways get this safety upgrade. Work commenced on the U.S. 82 end of the project. Once this phase is completed, the Main Street portion will begin.

Autauga Creek has historical significance in the Prattville community, which made its name as an industrial center. It is the site where Daniel Pratt, the town’s founder and first mayor, developed industrial facilities on the creek to use as a power source to cotton gin manufacturing equipment in the 1830s. The county’s name is actually derived from the large creek, which flows through its center, and is said to signify ’land of plenty’ in the Native American tongue.

While the creek no longer powers the mills it once served, it is still considered to play a key role in Prattville as a source of water for public and industrial supply. The Autauga Creek watershed drains approximately 120 sq. mi. in Autauga and Chilton Counties. Land use in the watershed is mostly forested mixed with urban, pasture and cropland.

The much-anticipated ALDOT project is expected to be completed before summer, depending, however, on weather conditions and work progress. All traffic lanes have been reopened no later than 5 p.m. each day during construction. Motorists in the area have been encouraged to consider using alternate routes, adjust arrival/departure times, observe work zone speed limits and other work zone signs and use extreme caution in the area for the duration of construction.

The general contractor for the project, Newell and Bush Inc., Montgomery, Ala., is responsible for overseeing all work on the removal and replacement bridge in Autauga County, which requires long hours and leaves little room for error.

“The bridge should be completed by June 1, 2011,” explained Michael Ben Hitson, president of Newell and Bush. “Up to a dozen crew members, working five days a week, are trying to complete the tasks at hand.”

Equipment used includes two Kobelco 85-ton (77 t) cranes, a pile driving hammer, welders, air compressors, excavators, and screeds. 1,300 cu. yds. (993 cu m) of concrete, 5,500 linear ft. (1,676 m) of steel pile and 225,000 lb. (102,058 kg) of reinforced steel are among the materials needed for the job.

Added Hitson, “The biggest challenge with this particular job would have to be access for work, with the bridge parallel to the existing bridge for removal. But the city of Prattville was a huge help with lowering water for easy and safe construction.”

Christy Smith, president of Five Star Concrete & Construction L.L.C, explained, “Five Star Construction is responsible for the site concrete construction. We will be pouring concrete curb and gutter, slope paving and sidewalks. All work performed will be in accordance to the ALDOT specifications and guidelines.

“We began work in April and our portion of the work should be finished in about two weeks. We are a fast- moving team,” Smith concluded.

As the site manager for the company, Smith leads an eight-man crew of concrete finishers.

“A Gomaco GT 3600 curb machine is being used to complete the work, said Smith. “The most important piece is the Gomaco slip form paver, which we use to pour curb and gutter. We also use a Bobcat skid steer T250 and Bobcat excavator 430X for fine grading. We will pour approximately 100 yards of ready-mix concrete for curb and gutter and 120 yards for flatwork. It will all be approved by the ALDOT according to their ready-mix specifications.”

The biggest obstacle with the job, according to Smith, is the weather.

“We are already into the months of unpredictable weather so rain is a giant hurdle. Recently poured concrete and rain drops are an unpleasant mixture. I will be constantly checking the radar for pop-up showers. The heat can be brutal in the summer months and we always hydrate while on the job. We are not hesitant to end the work day early if there is an opportunity for overheating or exhaustion. “

Jeff Marshall, area manager for Bessemer-based ABC Cutting Inc., said the job has gone smoothly for his crew, which never encountered any problems during their scheduled shifts.

“We sawed several hundred linear feet of asphalt and concrete on the shoulders of the highway and on the interstate, using 57 horsepower and 80 horsepower saws with diamond blades ranging in sizes from 26 inches up to 48 inches diameter.”

Marshall added, “We also used Diamond Products saw 57 horsepower and Dimas 80 horsepower machines. In addition, we cut loops in the highway for information detection to basically determine just how many vehicles travel over the road each day. It was pretty routine, which is good, since that means there weren’t any setbacks along the way.”

Highway Management Systems of Calera, Ala., is responsible for the temporary and permanent striping on the Autauga Creek Bridge job.

“We will be installing the tape and pavement markers that will go on the road and bridge,” said Highway Management Systems Office Manager Patsy Franks. “When we do temporary, we use two people, while a crew of seven is used for the permanent work. The paint truck and the thermoplastic truck will both be in use, while the hand crew uses an apollo machine and a marker machine.”

Highway Management Systems, which is regularly involved in road and parking area delineation, also assists contractors and government agencies with traffic control matters.

“For this particular assignment,” said Franks, “Paint, thermoplastic, glass beads and pavement markers also are necessary. We hope we don’t have a shortage on thermoplastic this year like it was last year.

“The weather also is a big concern,” Franks admitted. “If it’s raining or too cold, we don’t get to work.”

Thomas Utility Company Inc. of Cleveland, Ala., also served as a subcontractor on the Autauga Creek Bridge project, as did Dothan, Ala.’s Wiregrass Construction Company.

According to Garrett Pass, Central Alabama area manager for Wiregrass Construction, “We are doing the priming and asphalt paving on each end of the bridge, including the detour road. We’re using a Caterpillar paver and roller, Ingersoll Rand rollers and some John Deere tractor brooms. We’ll be running asphalt out of our Montgomery plant — one of nine we operate — and should be through paving on the bridge by the end of April.

“An estimated 1,500 tons of asphalt is being used, with a total of about 30 workers on the job,” said Pass, who added that the rising temperatures are not expected to cause any snags for his team.

“We don’t expect any problems with the Autauga Creek Bridge project, but it is significant to be a part of it. Prattville is an extremely fast-growing area and this bridge has been here a really long time. It’s definitely held up over the years, but is certainly due for reconstruction. It’s an interesting project, because it’s by the revitalized downtown area with the mills and waterfall. It’s nice to think when I drive by the area thirty years or so from now, I can tell my family I had a hand in the process. I guess you could say I’m part of its history,” Pass concluded. CEG

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