Two decades ago, the Mississippi Department of Transportation began negotiations to clear the way for realignment of I-59 through Laurel, Miss., to alleviate a dangerous “S”-curved stretch of roadway.
It was especially hazardous for tractor-trailers, which risked shifting their loads in the 40-mph (64 kmh) curves, resulting in a rate of one or two accidents per month, said Red Stringfellow, MDOT’s District 6 Assistant Engineer for Construction.
“A lot of tractor-trailers have had wrecks in this curve,” said Stringfellow, who is glad to see the last remnant of the old S-curve being removed as a part of the $26.2 million realignment project that finally got under way in August 2006.
Tanner Construction Company Inc., of Ellisville, Miss., is the lead contractor on the job, which relocates the I-between the 13th Avenue overpass and the Fourth Avenue bridge a few hundred feet to the east of the old roadway, Stringfellow said.
The contract includes grading, drainage, bridge construction, paving, signal and light installation and removal of the old roadway embankment and bridge structures, he said. At this point, Tanner is on track to complete the project by August.
Since September, traffic formerly routed along that S-curve has been traveling a new 2,000-ft. bridge built to replace the old combination of three narrow bridges and shoulder-less roadway, said Stringfellow, noting the three old bridges are gone and work is in progress to remove the last roadway embankment.
Tanner Construction also is realigning the Jefferson Street extension so that it will line up with the southbound I-59 on- and off-ramps, he said.
While construction continues at the north end of the new bridge and on the two southbound ramps, safety is already greatly improved, said Stringfellow, who is not aware of any truck accidents occurring since the realignment.
“This project allowed the curve radii to be increased greatly and lengthen the deceleration and acceleration lanes to increase the safety through this section of roadway,” he said.
The total length of the project is 3,700 ft. (1,128 m), which includes the 2,000-ft. (610 m) bridge crossing Beacon, South Magnolia and Royal streets, Ellisville Boulevard and a railroad line.
Cranes have played an important role in the I-59 job, according to Calvin Davidson, estimator of Tanner Construction.
The drilled shaft foundation subcontractor, A.H. Beck Foundation Co. Inc., used a 130-ton (118 t) crane to construct 48-and 60-in. (122 and 152 cm) drilled shafts up to 80 ft. (24 m) long.
Tanner Construction used 125- and 130-ton (113 and 119 t) cranes to place the 72-in. (183 cm) bulb tee beams, each up to 140 ft. (43 m) long and weighing 50 to 60 tons (43 to 54 t).
“Bridge construction was accomplished with company-owned American and Manitowoc cranes up to 130-ton capacity,” Davidson said.
While Tanner uses mostly company-owned equipment, it does supplement with rentals.
“We do rent a significant amount of equipment from Puckett, Puckett Rents, Volvo Rents, Stribling Equipment LLC, Lyle Machinery and Rent All of Laurel,” he said.
Davidson praised the heavy equipment dealers they do business with saying, “We have excellent service here, mostly from Hattiesburg.”
Materials used on the project include roughly 5,500 cu. yd. (4,205 cu m) of concrete drill shaft piles, 37,000 ft. (11,278 m) of concrete prestressed beams,11,500 cu. yd. (8,792 cu m) of bridge concrete and approximately 30,000 tons of asphalt.
Walters Construction Co. Inc. was subcontracted for excavation work.
In addition to the 10,500 cu. yd. (8,028 cu m) of unclassified excavation cut and used as fill on project, 103,950 cu. yd. (79,475 cu m) of borrow fill has been brought in and 93,600 cu. yd. (71,562 cu m) of excess excavation material has been removed from project.
Other subcontractors include: Road-Pro Safety Inc., advanced traffic control signing; Tremac Resteel Inc., steel rebar tie; Miller Staking Inc., construction staking; RJM-McQueen Contracting Inc., erosion control and grassing; J.L. McCool Contractors Inc., traffic striping; Lewis Electric Inc., traffic signals; Atwood Fence Company Inc., guardrail and overhead signs; A-1 Sealing Inc., rumble strip and transverse bridge grooving; Synergy Earth Systems LLC, retaining wall system; and Durabridge-Precision Coating Contractors Inc., bridge painting.
Originally, I-59 was going to be a relocated U.S. 11, but while it was still under construction, in 1956, it was redesignated I-59. But the roadway lacked a shoulder and had very little acceleration/deceleration laning, adding to its safety issues.
One of the main factors that delayed MDOT’s plans for straightening out the S-curve was that the realignment would displace the 72 Laurel Housing units on Beacon Street, considered to have historical significance.
So MDOT had to hammer out a deal with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing Authority of Laurel, which ultimately involved relocating those 72 units to new, architecturally similar units built by MDOT.
The city of Laurel played a major role in keeping the project alive through the long process, and has been very cooperative in dealing with construction-related issues and inconveniences, Stringfellow said.
“There have been different ramps and local streets closed periodically during the contract. The City of Laurel and the emergency personnel associated with the city have been very accommodating.
“Some of the businesses located in the area have been impacted but have been understanding of the work and why it was needed. It has presented a challenge for downtown Laurel, but they’ve been very receptive and understanding.”