A steady stream of traffic and rainy weather are the most difficult challenges facing Key Constructors as crews try to complete a $16.8 million interchange reconstruction on busy Old Agency Road in Ridgeland, MS, near Jackson.
Key Constructors of Madison, MS, was awarded the bid for the project in January 2001 and work began on the project in February 2001.
“Our goal is to get the lanes opened up by the end of the year,” said David Trevathan, president of Key Constructors.
An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 cars pass through the area each day. “The traffic is unbelievable,” said Trevathan.
The project, which is marked by 1,000 orange barrels, begins at the I-220 interchange with I-55 and goes north through the existing Old Agency Road interchange to the overpass bridge, a distance of approximately 1.6 mi. (2.6 km). It also includes improvements to a section of Old Agency Road.
Trevathan said that nearly 30 workers are at the site, working Monday through Saturday, 10 hours a day. The company has several subcontractors working on the job: APAC Mississippi Inc. of Jackson is doing asphalt work while American Field Services, Gluckstadt, MS, is doing curbs, gutters and islands.
Crews are using various pieces of heavy equipment including Cat 320 and 315 excavators, a Cat 12G grader, Cat D-3, D-5 and D-6 dozers and a number of Cat compactors and rollers. Key Constructors owns its equipment.
A notable feature of the project will be construction of an approach roundabout at the intersection of Highland Colony Parkway and Old Agency Road.
Circular intersections are unusual in Mississippi, said Brian Ratliff, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) project engineer. The only other roundabout both Trevathan and he are aware of is at the approach to Jackson Airport.
With dual lanes, the Old Agency Road roundabout will be more elaborate than the one at Jackson airport, noted Ratliff, who is pleased with the progress of the project, noting that it’s the longest construction project for MDOT with which he’s been involved.
Trevathan said his personnel constructed two bridges in the area to replace outdated structures. Both stretch over I-55.
One was built to accommodate traffic on the Natchez Trace. The other bridge is on Old Agency Road and was built in phases so traffic flow could continue without interruption. Crews used American 4260, 5299 and 7250 cranes.
The Old Agency bridge is 391 ft. (119 m) long and five lanes wide; the Natchez Trace Bridge is 520 ft. (158.5 m) long, two lanes wide and includes a separate bicycle lane.
Helping to increase capacity and improve traffic flow, an additional lane is being added to I-55 through the length of the project –– increasing the number of lanes from four to six –– including construction of auxiliary lanes in some areas.
Both Trevathan and Ratliff said they are trying to minimize delays for motorists and noted that specific provisions were included in the contract to keep two lanes of traffic open to I-55 at all times, except during bridge removal.
Temporary lane closures are not being allowed on I-55 during morning and evening rush hour, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Temporary lane closures are permitted during off-peak hours and weekends.
David Wood, headmaster of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, which is located less than a mile from where the roundabout will be constructed, said it is wonderful that the work will be completed by the end of the school year.
“[The project] will improve traffic flow and safety,” he said.
Once the lanes are open, Key Constructors will do landscaping for the project. The landscaping is expected to be complete by May 2004.
Eighty percent of the project is being paid for with federal funds, 10 percent with county funds and the remaining 10 percent by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Key Constructors recently completed a $27.1 million reconstruction of the I-55/Highway 463 interchange, which is the first single point urban interchange in Mississippi and one of only a handful in the South.
In addition to the new bridge just off I-55, the project included reconstructing approximately two miles of I-55 and widening Highway 463 to five lanes from Highland Colony Parkway through the interchange.