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Nissan Plant Spurs Second Interchange in Madison, MS

Thu September 16, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

Another bridge of Madison County is being built just down Interstate 55 from the Nissan automotive plant that made it necessary.

The south interchange will complement a north interchange that was constructed in 2001 in conjunction with the new plant. The $950 million plant –– Mississippi’s first automotive facility –– was lured to the state with an economic aid package that included construction of the access ramps to I-55 and a brand new parkway running in front of the plant site.

However, the first interchange was designed to handle just part of the truck traffic that constantly feeds the Nissan manufacturing process. The need for a second access point was envisioned as the plant developed to full capacity.

Some of the traffic is from the numerous parts and support businesses that sprang up on the outskirts of the assembly plant. Some long-haul truckers heading toward the plant also get off the interstate at Gluckstadt several miles south, which is causing traffic jams there. The new interchange will particularly ease that situation.

Key Constructors of Madison, MS, was awarded an $18 million general contract to build the new interchange.

The project includes a half-clover structure with a collector road on the east side that will connect with a recently improved road that eventually becomes Nissan Parkway. Across the interstate to the west, another short connector is being built that eventually will tie into a proposed Calhoun Station Parkway, which will be built by the county.

The interstate project got under way almost a year ago and has been slowed by rain.

“We had a wet summer. It was really horrendous weather,” said David Trevathan, president of Key. “May and June were quite wet. August was the fourth wettest August on record. We got eight inches.”

The relatively flat and open area didn’t shed the water any too quickly, so equipment periodically was parked.

“Some phases lag behind now and we’re trying to catch up,” said Trevathan.

He estimated the job is nearly 50 percent complete. Completion date is November 2005.

Two bridges actually comprise the project –– the bridges narrowly separated from one another and each carrying two lanes of traffic. Together the bridges are about 100 ft. (30 m) wide; each is nearly 500 ft. (152 m) long.

The bridges had piles driven, before concrete footings, columns and caps were poured on site. Drainage structures and box culverts were poured last winter. MMC Inc. is concrete supplier.

Sixteen precast concrete beams in each of five spans will support the bridge decks. Madison Materials of Ridgeland, MS, is supplying the girders, which are 4.5 ft. (13.5 m) high and about 90 ft. (27 m) long.

Key’s bridge crew of 20 employ four American cranes to lift the spans into place. American models 7250, 5299 and 4260 are on site. A Manitowoc crane drove the piles.

Key has in its stable of equipment two other Manitowocs and a Link Belt. The firm is in the process of replacing its older units and probably will do so with Link Belts, Trevathan said.

Traffic delays on the interstate have been minimal so far, but that partly is because of Key’s work during off hours.

“Any time we have to put in a lane change so equipment can access the job, we do it at night or on Saturdays,” Trevathan said. The last of the girders was expected to be lifted into place in early September, eliminating that phase of traffic interruption.

Traffic flow is an obvious concern of Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) officials, and not just in respect to traffic in and out of the Nissan facility. MDOT officials say the interstate carries 27,000 vehicles a day on the leg between Canton and Jackson. That number is expected to grow to 96,000 vehicles a day in the next 20 years.

Federal and state money is funding the interchange project.

The approximately two mi. (3.2 km) of connecting roads being cut through farm land are being constructed by Eutaw Construction Company of Aberdeen.

Some 700,000 cu. yds. (532,000 cu m) of dirt are being moved to level out the roadway and build inclines that merge with the decks of the interchange bridges.

About half of the dirt is being trucked to the site from an adjacent borrow pit, with off-road Komatsu 350 trucks doing the hauling. An extra 100,000 cubic yards (76,000 cu m) was brought in because of a larger-than-expected deposit of Yazoo clay.

“That was the only problem we had,” said Scott Carter, Eutaw’s project manager. “We had thought there were maybe 10,000 cu yds. (7,600 cu me) of the Yazoo.”

Yazoo clay is common in a geological belt angling southeast across the state. The clay is avoided in construction projects because of its unusual capacity to swell, sometimes doubling its volume when it becomes saturated with rainwater. That much change can crack foundations and, in this case, buckle a roadway.

So the Yazoo was dug up and hauled away and replaced with the more accommodating silty clay common to the region. Eutaw’s Komatsu dozers and Caterpillar scrapers moved the earth.

The company had virtually completed the roadbed by the end of August and had begun putting down a gravel sub-base, spreading and rolling some 30,000 tons (27,000 t) of 6-in. (15 cm) stone. The Jackson division of APAC eventually will pave the roadway with asphalt.

“We’re trying to finish before the rainy season begins in November,” Carter said.

Trevathan agrees that the push is to complete as much as possible before the onset of wintry weather, which in Mississippi means rain.

“Winter causes a lot of problems,” Trevathan said. “We end up working about half the time.”

Key Constructors is a 29-year-old Madison company that for the last couple of years has been able to concentrate on work pretty much in its own backyard. Six major road and bridge projects have been undertaken in the immediate region during that time, including construction of Mississippi’s first single point urban interchange.

The single-point interchange is fairly rare in the Southeast and features ramps leading to a single traffic light in the middle of the bridge. That bridge was built within view of Key’s office on the edge of Madison.

Eutaw Construction dates to 1980, when Thomas S. Elmore founded it. The firm specializes in earthmoving and utility construction. It was a big player in construction of the Nissan plant, moving some 5 million cu. yds. (3.8 million cu m) of dirt to create an earthen platform for the facility.

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