Roadwork on Hold as Crews Relocate Utilities

Mon November 03, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Zoie Clift




Gilchrist Construction Company, a heavy highway contractor based in central Louisiana, is in the midst of a $23.3 million project in Shreveport.

According to Project Manager Justin Rhodes, the job, which began July 28 and is expected to be completed by July 1, 2011, consists of replacing a heavily traveled two lane road with a five lane road (two lanes in each direction with a center turn lane).

The job is 2.9 mi. (4.7 km) long and involves widening and reconstructing LA 523 from La. 1 to Bert Kouns Industrial Loop.

“This project will greatly affect the delays of this roadway,” said Rhodes. “LA 523 is especially busy … probably one of the busiest routes in Shreveport.”

LA 523 connects La. 1 (Youree Drive — a major retail area) to I-49 as well as Bert Kouns and the Inner Loop Expressway. It also connects all of these areas to the major residential areas of Shreveport.

“Traffic on LA 523 is backed up every day all day,” Rhodes said.

The project calls for installing drainage pipe, asphalt overlay, concrete overlay, traffic signals, concrete slab span bridges and related work. The job is actually two separate roads, Ellerbe Road and Flournoy Lucas Road as the path of LA 523 covers both. The new roadway will consist of a stone and asphalt base under the concrete paving. The job also contains two slab span bridges (Bayou Pierre and Sand Beach Bayou).

New traffic signals and utilities also will be installed with the project.

“With that, this project is very different from any other, I have been involved with,” said Rhodes. “Since the area is a highly traveled residential area, there are several utility companies in the way of the road construction — 11 to be exact.”

Because of the large amount of utilities, the state has set up the project to where the prime contractor, Gilchrist, mobilizes on site and clears and grubs the site. The state then suspends time on the contractor until each of the utilities have been relocated. Once this happens, the prime then begins the road construction and time begins once again. The utilities have varying timelines (up to 400 calendar days) for the relocation. Gilchrist also must supply personnel during that time to coordinate utility relocation.

“The only real challenge with this project is the utilities,” said Rhodes. “Due to the large amount of utility relocation, the road construction is at a stand still until the relocations are complete. Thus, we have to do whatever [is] possible to expedite the relocation of the utilities. I have been working closely with utility contractors to develop installation patterns so that no two contractors conflict [with] each other at any time.”

Rhodes said the new sewer line is classified as a contract item rather than a utility relocation. Therefore, it can’t be completed until after the other utility relocations are complete. The problem with that is the sewer line is extremely deep, in some cases 30 ft. (9 m) deep.

“Thus, we have to install the deepest line first and work our way up,” he said. “So the sewer line must be installed first. The problem with that is installing a 30-foot deep sewer line takes quite a bit of time. Since the sewer line is extremely deep, we must install well points prior to laying the line. Well points are basically the same as a well in which you would draw drinking water from.”

For the well pointing process, a corrugated pipe is driven into the ground on 3-ft. (0.9 m) centers the length of the pipe to be installed. Those pipes hook to a much larger pipe called a header, which hooks to a large water pump. The pump then draws the water out of the ground and reduces the water table.

“On our job this pump had to pump constantly [24/7] for 18 days before we could lay the first joint of pipe,” he said. “And [the pump] must remain running until we are complete with laying the pipe. You can imagine the fuel cost. It took us around three weeks to dig the bench and another week to set the well points. It was almost eight weeks before we could lay the first joint of pipe.”

The company is about half way done with laying this pipe and should start backfilling soon. Because none of the utility contractors could work in the area, they had to move the contractors to different areas of the project. As of now, everything is on schedule.

Only a handful of Gilchrist employees are working the project now since it is in the utility relocation phase. The remainder work for the utility contractors. All together, there are about 40 people on site at any given time, plus inspectors.

According to Rhodes, the company deals almost exclusively with Caterpillar. He said when the project gets going the company will have several Cat dozers ranging from D4 to D6. It will have a Cat 140 motorgrader and several Cat trackhoes ranging from 315 to 345. It also will use Sheepsfoot rollers, brooms, backhoes, etc. Currently Wicker Construction (Shreveport, La. — water and sewer relocations ) is the only subcontractor on site. It has several Volvo 330 trackhoes as well as a Case 700 dozer. In addition it also has some specialty equipment, such as Thompson pumps and boring machines, both wet and dry bore machines as well as directional bore machines. DIGCO (Centerpoint energy gas line relocation) also is working on the project.

Currently there are no delays or detours due to the job, other than people slowing down to look at the construction. In the near future, Rhodes said the surrounding communities will experience moderate delays due to a force main sewer set to be installed around 1 to 5 ft. (0.3 to 1.5 m) from the traveling roadway.

“Because of the proximity to the roadway, we will have to shut down one lane of travel in the work area,” he said.

Rhodes said the crew will maintain traffic with flagmen. On a heavily traveled roadway, this will create significant delays during peak travel times. However, they will only work during the day and will have both lanes of travel open at the end of the work day. CEG