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Site Prep Begins for Palmetto Parkway’s Final Phase

Fri March 16, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle

In the next 31 months, construction crews in Aiken County, S.C., will move approximately 5 million cu. yds. (3.8 million cu m) of dirt, construct three interchanges and build 13 bridges to complete the second phase of the Palmetto Parkway.

Construction is taking place adjacent to the city limits of North Augusta, S.C., just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga. Trailer offices for SCDOT and the general contractor are on-site next door to each other.

Phase II of the Palmetto Parkway consists of the completion of I-520 from U.S. Route 1 to I-20 along this new location for approximately 6.5 mi. (10.5 km). A multidirectional interchange will link the two interstate facilities. The completion of the project will complete the I-520 corridor.

“We’re constructing a new location, limited access highway on I-520. There’s a lot of work to be accomplished in a short time. It’s nothing we haven’t done before, just more of it,” said Jim Ewart, project manager of United Constructors Inc., the general contractor.

He said, “As far as South Carolina projects, it’s complicated to the extent that we’re building two bridges over I-20, we have to tie ramps into I-20 and we cross seven existing roads each with their own staging challenges.”

Ewart noted the total excavation is approximately 5 million cu. yds., but since the design is not complete, the exact amount is unknown.

“The haul distances vary from less than 1,500 feet to over 9,000 feet. We currently expect that only 200,000 cubic yards of the earthwork will be borrow,” he said.

There will be some detours and some night work, according to Ewart.

He said concrete rehab work will be done at night on I-20. “We’ll also be setting beams across public roadways at night or at first light on Sunday mornings,” he said.

United Constructors, which is located in Great Falls, S.C., is working with Triplett-King and Florence & Hutcheson, civil engineering firms from Rock Hill and Columbia, S.C., on the design-build project.

Ewart also was project manager for United on Phase I of the Palmetto Parkway, which was a smaller project costing $40 million. Phase II will cost nearly $126 million.

“F&H was not involved in the first phase. The first phase was a hybrid design-build. The bridge work was lump sum design-build and the roadwork was traditional unit price work. Phase II is entirely design-build. The bridge designer on Phase I was Triplett-King of Rock Hill, S.C. They are also the lead designer of Phase II, doing most of the bridge design work. F&H is the roadway designer and doing some of the bridge work,” Ewart said.

The first phase opened to traffic on June 22, 2004, after 24 months of construction. Palmetto Parkway will join Georgia’s Bobby Jones Expressway to complete a circumferential route around the city of North Augusta and Augusta, Ga. More importantly, the parkway will serve the expanding North Augusta area, as well as provide a direct connection to I-20.

“Our success on Phase I was a factor in being selected as one of the three companies to compete for Phase II,” Ewart said.

United Contractors, which traces its roots back more than 50 years, performs work in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.

Both phases were funded in a partnership between SCDOT, the South Carolina State Infrastructure Bank and with local funding provided by Aiken County. The majority of the funding was provided by the infrastructure bank with highway funding being provided SCDOT and providing funding via a locally approved funding mechanism.

The State Highway Engineer’s office calls the Palmetto Parkway “a good example of several governmental entities working together to design, finance an deliver a project to the public.”

Permits Still Coming

“We started clearing and grubbing on Jan. 2. We are still in the process of obtaining some land disturbance permits. We are finalizing plans as well. Clearing and grubbing are currently our main activities. Major grading and drainage will start in mid spring,” said Ewart.

In addition to moving such a large amount of dirt, the project calls for 400 acres (162 ha) of clearing and 70,000 cu. yds. (53,500 cu m) of concrete paving.

Ewart said it is an advantage to have worked on Phase I, because he knows the subcontractors who will work on the second phase. Asphalt paving — approximately 200,000 tons (181,000 t) — for example, will be done by Satterfield Construction in Greenwood, S.C.

He noted 20 to 30 subcontractors will be used on the project for such jobs as asphalt, concrete paving, retaining walls, barrier walls and the multiple specialty disciplines normally associated with major highway construction projects.

Ewart said United is doing clearing, limited earthwork and erosion control work now and approximately 30 personnel are on the job. The department of transportation and an inspection staff also have personnel on site and bring the total to 45 people.

“During periods of maximum effort, there will be close to 200 workers on any given day. Do the math. As with all highway construction, a lot of patrol dollars are generated. The ripple effect for the economy is significant,” he added.

A variety of construction equipment will be used on this project.

“Again during peak construction, there will be well over 100 pieces of major construction equipment at work,” Ewart said.

He said Cat excavators, Cat 25 ton trucks and Cat 40 ton trucks will be used for the earthwork.

Ewart expects 15 to 20 cranes, mainly Link-Belts, to be used for bridge construction. But, he said, “the exact ones will depend upon availability from other projects.”

Claude Ipock, resident construction engineer on site for the SCDOT, said Phase II will “complete the I-520 corridor.”

Design-build isn’t done a lot by his agency, but “it is becoming more important,” Ipock added.

He said the main reasons for design-build are to expedite the construction process.

“The project is completed in a much more time efficient process, which, in turn, is a cost savings. It also allows the contractor and designers an opportunity for innovation and new ideas.” CEG

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