MDOT Progresses With Stack, Crews Tackle Phase III

Wed October 29, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle

With safety of the construction crews in mind, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is progressing on Phase III of the Stack, a major road project in the Jackson, MS, metropolitan area, with a coordinated traffic plan.

“We’re following the game plan that the state had as far as traffic control and it’s keeping us trouble free,” said Paul Leonards, project manager of the primary contractor, Hill Brothers Construction and Engineering Company.

Construction began in mid-March in Rankin and Hinds counties and transportation officials said it has proceeded smoothly. Thousands of cars move through the Stack daily on both the first and second phases of the project.

The third phase will reconstruct more than 5 mi. (8 km) of I-20, I-55 and U.S. 49 and will be completed in 2006. In total, the third portion of the Stack will include a northbound flyover bridge for traffic going west on I-20 or north on I-55. In all, seven bridges are planned in the current phase — costing a total of $58.7 million.

By the end of September, 22 percent of the project was complete, with nearly 15 percent of the contract time used. Currently, Hill Brothers, which is headquartered in Falkner, MS, is continuing to bring in borrow material to build the fill section north of I-20; the section between old U.S. 49 and I-55 is very close to finish grade.

Crews also are driving piles, constructing piers and placing beams on bridges labeled “A”, “B” and “C” – those located north of I-20. Pipes, inlets and other drainage structures are being installed along the east and west frontage road parallel to U.S. 49.

Hill Brothers currently owns or leases 300 major construction units and trucks, including hauling units —articulated and rigid frame —scrapers, crawler tractors, graders, excavators, cranes, backhoes, loaders, tractors, rollers, trucks and tool vans.

Leonards said approximately 40 pieces of heavy equipment are at the job site — a 100-ton (90.8 t) A-100 and 5299 American Crane, a Cat D6N dozer, a 60-ton (54.4 t) Bucyrus motor crane and a 25-ton (22.7 t) Grove crane.

There are nearly 20 suppliers and subs working on the project, which requires approximately 50,000 cu. yds. (38,200 cu m) of concrete.

A Mississippi state construction program honored Leonards’ crew in June as being a safe construction site. Hill Brothers receives this recognition every six months, something that is viewed as a company incentive and “keeps everybody focused,” Leonards said.

One of the workers on the project was the winner of a new Patriot Edition Polaris four-wheeler given by the company as part of the award.

According to Leonards, the project was incident free and accident free for the months leading up to June. Approximately 100 workers, including those employed by Hill Brothers, are working at the site.

When MDOT bid on the third phase, it included a safety patrol, said Leonards, who assigns workers to “ride” the area looking for stranded motorists who need a tire repaired or a towing. “We try to get them on the road,” he said.

“The service patrol is solely to benefit the public. A tow truck monitors the entire limits of the construction area during hours that the contractor is working, looking for any motorist in trouble,” said Central District Highway Commissioner Dick Hall.

Hall said MDOT has received positive feedback from the public regarding the safety patrol.

MDOT encourages motorists to use eight changeable message signs when traveling through Stack work zones. Each sign contains radar detectors, which asks motorists to slow down as they proceed through the work zones. Four of the signs are strategically placed outside the project boundaries to serve as warning signs should an unexpected detour be necessary.

“We are very fortunate there have been no problems or setbacks to this point and we are very positive about reaching our completion goal of 2006,” said Ken Wallace, MDOT project engineer.

Freddy Stokes, Stack assistant project engineer, said the challenge is to “complete the project with minimal impact to the public.”

To do so, they are opening all interstate lanes during the day and closing lanes at night and over the weekend. Lanes will be closed on U.S. 49 during the day, but the work will occur during non-commuter hours.

“The challenge is coordinating the different phases of the project, which is ahead of schedule,” said Leonards, noting that this is the first time that Hill Brothers is working on the Stack.

A fourth Stack phase is planned with a tentative date of October 2007 for bid letting. The project will include replacing pavement on I-20/I-55 from Gallatin Street to the Pearl River. It also includes a new roadway from Gallatin Street to State Street.

Conceptual plans for the Stack were developed in the late 1970s for four projects and the right-of-way was obtained in mid-1980s. The first project was let to contract in 1992; the second project followed in February 1997.

The first phase included the construction of southbound I-55 from Pearl-Pascagoula Street to I-20, including a flyover from southbound I-55 to a new collector-distributor road for eastbound traffic. It also included the construction of a collector-distributor road on the south side of I-20 in the eastbound direction from the Pearl River to U.S. 49 and the construction of I-20 from the Pearl River to Pearson Road in Pearl.

Phase 2 of the Stack involved the widening of northbound I-55 bridges over U.S. 80 and Pearl River and overlaying the pavement from I-20 to the Pearl-Pascagoula interchange.