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New Interchange to Boost Huntsville Area Economy

When completed, the project will provide motorists full access to and from I-565 to Madison Boulevard and County Line Road.

Wed September 17, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) crews are busy constructing a new interchange near Huntsville that could be a major economic boost for the area. When completed, the project will provide motorists full access to and from I-565 to Madison Boulevard and County Line Road. The interchange will mean an easier drive for Madison residents commuting to Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal, and encourage business development along County Line Road.

“There’s property in three quadrants of the intersection in the city of Madison and the city of Huntsville that will benefit from improved access to I-565 that could enhance their development opportunities and expand the tax revenues for the cities,” said Johnny Harris, ALDOT division engineer. “The city of Madison, Limestone County and the city of Huntsville have undeveloped property in their respective jurisdictions that will be greatly enhanced for development, once an all-direction interchange is in place. The congestion associated with the current Wall-Triana/I-565 intersection in the city of Madison will be reduced, as well.”

Drivers in the city of Madison and Limestone and Madison counties will have another access point aside from Wall Triana Highway, which currently experiences heavy traffic. The interchange construction will include building additional ramps to the existing underpass and relocating a portion of Madison Boulevard.

As traffic continues to increase along County Line Road due to growing business in the area, the interchange will help reduce the amount of traffic and create an access point for nearby new developments. The project will serve countless motorists and residents using the I-565 corridor.

Reed Contracting Services Inc. of Huntsville is serving as general contractor.

“We’re responsible for all the grading and drainage work, as well as the paving,” said Tim Mayhall, project manager. “We will perform 80 to 85 percent of all the work on this project, which is about 40 percent complete. All drainage has been installed, 75 percent of the grading has been performed and about five percent of the paving has been performed.”

Crews are putting down asphalt and preparing to install overhead signs. In addition, the signage for the project, much of the asphalt course, permanent stabilization, final grading and striping of roadways have yet to be carried out. Crews also have to deal with three sinkholes, discovered near southbound County Line Road to the eastbound I-65 ramp alignment, which had to be investigated and addressed. This resulted in an overrun of approximately $600,000, to date.

“The sinkholes didn’t affect the project schedule,” Mayhall said. “Of course, had we not encountered them, I’m sure we would be further along than we are, but we’re still ahead of schedule. The sinkholes were excavated to bed rock and filled in with rip rap and flowable fill concrete.”

Many different types and models of equipment have been used on the project. For excavation, crews have used John Deer tractors and pans, as well as track excavators and articulated trucks. The stone installation under the asphalt layers requires Caterpillar motorgraders and rollers. In addition, paving machines and steel drum rollers are being used.

A total of 231,554 cu. yds. (117,035 cu m) of dirt has to be moved, which has been a substantial part of the company’s work. Materials used on the job include 48,000 tons (43,544 t) of stone, 1,500 ft. (457 m) of drainage, 2,500 cu. yds. (1,911 cu m) of concrete and approximately 64,000 tons (58,059 t) of asphalt.

“Work started before all the land acquisitions were made, and before all the utilities had been relocated,” said Mayhall. “We had to work around the land acquisition and the existing utilities. Some of the utilities still remain in place, and we are waiting for them to be relocated to date. The most time consuming and trickiest part will be to get all the asphalt installed per the many typicals that are called for within the project plans.”

Local elected officials joined Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and area citizens at the project’s groundbreaking, applauding the work getting underway to help alleviate congestion. The project has been discussed for years, although Harris said work is on schedule, now that work is finally under way.

“Early on in project development, we had some design changes to avoid some historic property that caused the letting date to be adjusted out further than originally planned. However, after completing the final design, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation became the controlling factors on the time line for the project to be bid for construction, and there were only minor delays associated with these activities.”

Work on the 17-month project began in December 2013. Harris said the low bid for construction was $9.4 million, which was much lower than expected. The highly anticipated project is being funded by 90 percent federal funds and matched by 10 percent city of Madison funds.

So far, the weather has cooperated for the most part, although temperatures were lower than normal for a few months.

“We did experience a fairly severe cold winter season,” said Harris. “However, I don’t think it hampered progress significantly. The normal wet winter weather also has not significantly impacted progress.”

In mid-January, the Exit 7 ramp of Interstate 565 East and a portion of Madison Boulevard west of County Line Road were closed for approximately nine months. Motorists were warned to expect reduced work zone speed limits and closures of services roads, ramps, lanes and shoulders. Most have responded well to the closure and have made adjustments to their driving patterns.

“They have the option to use Madison Boulevard to go east to Wall-Triana Boulevard and access I-565 east or west,” Harris said. “They can stay on Madison Boulevard and continue east. They can access old SR-20 from County Line Road north of Madison Boulevard and proceed west to Greenbriar Road to access I-565 at the Greenbriar Road Interchange.

“Safety is always a priority with the Department,” Harris said. “All traffic control devices are inspected daily by project personnel to ensure they are maintained in good working order and that all electronic message boards are functioning properly.”

The project constructs two additional ramps at the current County Line Road overpass to allow for southbound County Line Road traffic to turn east on I-565 and to allow westbound I-565 traffic to exit to County Line Road and Madison Boulevard. Madison Boulevard intersection with County Line Road will be shifted to the north to allow for the westbound I-565 exit ramp to loop around to intersect with County Line Road.

ALDOT provides project management to ensure that the contractor meets the contract specifications, and payments are computed correctly to the contractor. The work is considered a mid-range project, and is being performed with no major complications.

Troy Trulock, the mayor of Madison has been a proponent of the new interchange for years, and is looking forward to its completion next year.

“The city of Madison currently only has one access point onto I-565 east and west, and that’s through the Wall Triana interchange,” said Trulock. “That creates traffic jams and increased commute times as citizens and businesses try to access I-565. A second interchange will provide faster access to I-565, shorter commute times, and increase business interest along County Line Road.”

Boeing Co. is reportedly considering nearby Huntsville as a potential location to build its new 777X passenger jet, and officials believe the new interchange is a key selling point. Trulock also said other companies seem interested in relocating to the area, due to the large lots of undeveloped land.

“Business interest has significantly increased along County Line Road with the construction of the new interchange, which will support business and residential growth in the cities of Madison and Huntsville, as well as Madison County and Limestone County,” said Trulock. “It’s a big project for all of the team members, and will support economic growth throughout this corridor for the next 15 to 20 years.”

Trulock said there are mixed emotions, as with any road construction project.

“I often tell audiences, ’the good news is that we are under construction; the bad news is that we are under construction’. I think of road construction as similar to minor surgery on a shoulder or knee. You know it’s needed; yet the surgery and six-month recovery can be painful. But, in the long run, you will be much better off.”

The new interchange is scheduled to open in May 2015.

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