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New Bypass to Bridge the Divide in Lee County

Motorists will no longer need to drive into downtown if traveling to Lee County schools.

Wed August 05, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Crews in Leesburg, Ga., have finished work on a new bridge, and will continue work on a bypass to ease traffic flow in the area. Motorists will no longer need to drive into downtown if traveling to Lee County schools.

“The city of Leesburg is divided by railroad tracks, with only two crossings within the city limits,” said Bob Alexander, Leesburg city manager. “With all the schools in Lee County being within the city limits, there is a tremendous increase in traffic during school hours.

“With a bridge over the railroad tracks and U.S. 19, the North Bypass will divert traffic from the downtown area, reducing traffic congestion and improve school bus safety. The project is scheduled for completion in December of this year; however we are hoping that motorists will be able to drive on it when school opens in late August.”

A GDOT report indicates the current and projected demographic and development trends signal the need for a safer and more efficient transportation corridor north of Leesburg. The existing transportation network requires traffic, including school buses, to travel through downtown Leesburg or along local streets to reach destinations south of town or to access US-19/SR-3. The current conditions also require traffic and school buses to cross an at-grade and high-traffic Norfolk-Southern Railroad crossing located at the highly-congested signalized US-19/SR-32/SR-195 & 4th Street intersection in downtown Leesburg.

One of the highlights of the Leesburg bridge project has been the placement of the massive steel and concrete beams, at 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall, 147 ft. (44.8 m) long, and weighing 43,000 lbs. (19,504 kg) each, along the longest span. Once the beams were shipped and delivered to the project site, workers hoisted them in place to form the fly-over that will connect US 19 and State Route 195. Officials, contractors and other individuals lined the road with their vehicles, just to witness the event.

The Leesburg North Bypass project consists of the construction of a new two-lane facility with turn lanes at intersections from US-19/SR-3 eastward to SR-195 north of Leesburg. Side roads will be improved and re-aligned as needed. The project also includes a grade-separated crossing of the Norfolk-Southern railroad and US-19/SR-3.

The project will feature two 12-ft. (3.6 m) travel lanes and 6.5-ft. (1.9 m) paved shoulders. The project is entirely on new location, with no existing right-of-way present. The right-of-way will generally range from 110 to 225 ft. (33.5 to 68.5 m) More right-of-way may be necessary at the approaches to the grade-separated railroad crossing, or at cross street intersections. The project length is 1.78 mi. (2.86 km).

Construction was authorized in late January 2014. The bridge is complete, the roadway has been mass graded, drainage has been installed and graded aggregate base is being placed.

“The most challenging phase of most projects is the NEPA process, or the environmental clearance, simply because of the federal guidelines that must be followed to obtain federal funding,” said Dewayne Fulton, GDOT project engineer. “Safety for the traveling public and crew members has also been one of our top priorities.”

Pre-construction activities have included planning and programming, preliminary design, environmental clearance, right-of-way, final design and the construction bidding process. Original programming of the project to construction letting has taken 10 years.

The cost of the bridge is $1.7 million with the roadway portion totaling $6.4 million. The total length of the new bridge will be 329 ft. (100.2 m).

Main tasks of the Leesburg project yet to be carried out include the asphalt interlayer and concrete pavement, the bridge barrier and approaches, roadside safety features that include guardrails, along with signing and marking and placement of signs.

Materials on the project include 293,000 cu. yds. (224,014 cu m) of earthwork, 3,800 tons (3,447.3 t) of asphalt, 1,100 linear ft. (335.2 m) of storm drain pipe and 3,080 linear ft. (938.7 m) of PSC bridge piling.

Items required include reinforced concrete pipe and reinforced concrete box culverts of various sizes for storm drainage, granite graded aggregate base with Class 3 plain portland cement concrete pavement for mainline paving and graded aggregate base and asphalt paving consisting of 10 in. (25.4 cm) granite graded aggregate base, 25mm Superpave, 19mm Superpave, and 9.5mm Type II Superpave for paving at intersections.

Jay Griffith, project manager of general contractor Oxford Construction Company of Albany, Ga., said “The project is currently around 60 percent complete. Subgrade preparation and installation of granite graded aggregate base is currently ongoing, as well as erosion control maintenance. Our concrete paving subcontractor, J.A. Long Construction, is currently erecting their central mix concrete plant, as well.

“All clearing, storm drainage and rough grading have been completed, as well as construction of the new bridge over US 19 and Norfolk Southern Railroad.”

According to bridge subcontractor Southern Concrete Construction Company, a Kobelco CK1600 165-ton (149.6 t) crane and a Kobelco CK1000 100-ton (90.7 t) crane were used to set the long spans. The CK 1600 set the end spans by itself. The heaviest picks were the bulb tees in Span 2, weighing approximately 125,000 lbs. (56,699 kg) each.

“The beams were staged along the roadway before being backed into place for unloading,” Griffith said. “It took about 20 minutes per beam to get the truck into position, lift the beam off the truck, set the beam on the cap and reset the cranes for the next to back in.”

The main challenges on the project involved clearing and grading in wetlands.

The property within the new right-of-way consisted of a mixture of pecan grove, clear cut timber land and pasture land. To date, the project has required roughly 22,000 cu. yds. (16,820 cu m) of unclassified excavation, 4,000 cu. yds. (3,058.2 cu m) of granular embankment and 180,000 cu. yds. (137,619 cu m) of borrow excavation. Borrow excavation was obtained from three offsite pits on private property adjacent to the project.

For clearing, Griffith said a John Deere 350D LC hydraulic excavator equipped with a Labounty grapple was used, along with a John Deere 544 J wheel loader equipped with root rake and a John Deere 700 K dozer.

Grading equipment has included a John Deere 672 GP motorgrader equipped with Topcon GPS, a John Deere 772 D motorgrader, a John Deere 650 J dozer, a Caterpillar D6K LGP dozer, a Komatsu D51EX-22 dozer, Caterpillar 623 G elevating scrapers, Caterpillar 615 C Series II elevating scrapers, John Deere 300D articulated off-highway trucks, Mack CV713 Tandem axle dump trucks, a Komatsu PC290LC-10 hydraulic excavator and Dynapac CA 362PD vibratory sheepsfoot compactors.

Storm drainage machinery has included a Komatsu PC360LC-10 hydraulic excavator, a John Deere 544J wheel loader and a Dynapac CA134PDB vibratory sheepsfoot compactor. For base installation, crews have relied on a Caterpillar D6K-LGP equipped with a Rivinius/Domor R600-C base spreader, a Dynapac CA 262D vibratory smooth drum roller and a John Deere 672 GP motorgrader equipped with Topcon Millimeter GPS. Asphalt Paving equipment has included a Caterpillar AP1055E track asphalt paver, a Hamm HD 140 VO double drum vibratory roller, a Hamm HD 120 VO double drum vibratory roller and a John Deere 310 J loader backhoe.

Other heavy machinery has included a Gomaco 2600 concrete paver, a Gomaco RTP 500 pickup machine and a Rex Model S portable central mix concrete plant.

Traffic has not been a major obstacle at any time.

“Most of it is on new location, only intersecting three existing roads with fairly low traffic counts, so it hasn’t really been an issue,” said Griffith. “Safety is always our main concern for the traveling public and our crews, no matter the scope or magnitude of the project.”

As for detours, there will be minimal traffic shifts at the Smithville Road intersection during concrete paving operations, and there will be a detour of SR 195 while the Leslie Highway tie-in is being constructed, according to Griffith.

“The rest of the project is either on new location or will be constructed under traffic using lane closures.

“The project was very wet due to heavy rainfall when crews started construction in February 2014, but weather has not been a major issue, to date.”

According to GDOT numbers, Lee County is the eighth fastest growing community in Georgia and the 43rd fastest growing in the nation, with the majority of residents relocating to the area described as families with school-aged children. Residential development is projected to occur on agricultural lands west and east of the existing Leesburg West Bypass (US-19/SR-3 Bypass) and northward along the US-19/SR-3 corridor. Commercial development is expected to occur immediately adjacent to and along both sides of the bypass and rapid mixed development is expected along Robert Lee Drive.

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