By Kate Zanoni
A short stretch of the roadway started to buckle during road construction on Interstate 65 in Alabama Jan. 4.
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has been spending approximately $17.7 million rebuilding 10 mi. (16.1 km) of road on I-65 that needed resurfacing after years of wear and tear. This project includes crushing the concrete road surface and using the aggregate as a base layer for asphalt resurfacing.
The resurfacing project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006, but like the highway’s motorists, crews will take a detour as the unforeseen damage is repaired.
A 1,000-ft. (304.8 m) section of newly resurfaced roadway on the northbound side in Butler County began to fail as a result of undrained rainwater that lay beneath the original concrete roadbed.
The drainage problem occurred in one lane only, but ALDOT closed both lanes to prevent a road collapse.
ALDOT Spokesman Tony Harris said that the recent rainy fall weather might have added to the problem.
“The undetected moisture build-up is not an uncommon problem,” said Harris. “The strange thing about this problem is that we had no reason to anticipate it.”
According to Harris, roadway inspectors did not see any problems until the highway had already weakened.
During the emergency repairs, which began the same day as the road failure, motorists traveling from Georgiana to Greenville were rerouted off the interstate at exit 114 in Georgiana. From there, motorists used U.S. 31 to get to Greenville and return to I-65 at exit 128.
U.S. 31, a two-lane highway, runs parallel to I-65.
Harris urged motorists to leave early to account for the extended commute. He estimated that the detour could add up to two hours to travel time due to congestion.
“The 15-mile detour will take commuters anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours,” said Harris. “But the average is around 45 minutes.”
Construction crews from APAC-Southeast of Birmingham and subcontractor Wiregrass Construction of Dothan worked long hours to ensure that the repairs were finished in a timely fashion.
“Contractors [were] working around the clock,” Harris said.
The detour’s inconvenience was short-lived. The emergency project was completed Jan. 8, but one lane was open to traffic Jan. 6.
ALDOT is footing the bill for the emergency repairs, which cost approximately $100,000.
In the future, Harris said ALDOT plans to look for unstable road conditions that caused this problem to help avoid undrained moisture from remaining undetected during soil tests. CEG