Gwinnett County, located in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, has ranked as one of the fastest growing counties in the country for several decades, a fact that keeps state and local transportation planners jumping just to stay ahead of traffic gridlock.
The county’s population has swelled from 352,910 in 1990 to an estimated 726,273 in 2005, according to U.S. Census figures.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) recently awarded a $26.9-million contract to E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. of Snellville, Ga., to widen slightly more than 4.1 mi. (6.6 km) of Ga. 20 from two to four lanes south of Lawrenceville.
The road, which is designed for 45 mph speeds, will have a raised, divided 24-ft.-wide (7.3 m) concrete median and the lanes will be 12-ft. wide (3.6 m).
Snell was the low-bidder on the project, which will be 80 percent funded by federal dollars, with the remainder coming from state funds, according to Teri Pope, a spokesperson of GDOT’s Northeast Georgia District. The project will be paid entirely by the federal and state gasoline taxes, she said.
The project targets Ga. 20 between Lawrenceville on the northwest, through Grayson, and southeast toward Loganville. The road is a main arterial route for motorists wanting to connect with Interstate 85 just north of Lawrenceville.
The area, which was once rural with small ranch homes on several acres each, sports brand new subdivisions and strip shopping centers, as well as two historic homes that had to be considered by road planners.
Pope said Ga. 20 is a vital link in Gwinnett County and is one of three similar projects along the state highway in the area.
“It’s in Gwinnett County — that’s how vital it is,” said Pope. “Gwinnett has been in the top 10 in the U.S. for growth in the past few decades. It is a vital east-west corridor.”
Utility Relocation Woes
David Snell, vice president/corporate secretary of E.R. Snell, said the project, which started in July, consists of grading, drainage, base, plant mix paving and culvert construction on Ga. 20 from south of Cooper/Ozora Road near Grayson to north of Plantation Boulevard on the south side of Lawrenceville.
Grubbing and removal of tree materials has been completed and the time-consuming task of utility relocation has started. A vast array of utilities, including three gas lines, phone and power lines, cable television lines and a 48-in. (122 cm) water line will have to be removed and relocated, a task that could delay the original completion date of the project, Snell said.
“The contract completion date is August 31, 2008, but with the number of utility relocations involved, we have asked for a new completion date of August 31, 2009,” Snell said.
Tim Magill, Snell’s manager of the Ga. 20 project, said he’s got point men meeting every two weeks with the various utility representatives to spearhead and move the process along.
“Right now there is a lot of relocation to do,” said Magill. “When you think about three gas lines that have to be relocated, it is a big concern.”
Magill said 6-in., 8-in. and 12-in. gas lines have to be relocated along with a 48-in. water main, and to make matters worse, several hundred feet of granite will have to be blasted out to make room for the water lines.
Gwinnett County Inspector Jarrod Daniel said the county has contracted with Gary’s Grading and Pipeline Co. Inc. of Monroe, Ga., to handle the relocation of the water lines.
“We’ve got 25,000 feet of pipe to put in,” said Daniel. “This is a big project — one of the biggest we’ve had.”
So far, Daniel said approximately 385 ft. (117 m) of blasting through subterranean rock is anticipated, but there will likely be more. Most of the rock has been approximately 4-ft. deep, requiring a drill depth of 7 to 8 ft. (2.1 to 2.4 m).
The contractor has brought in a new 2006 Atlas Copco ECM-585 surface crawler drilling rig to prepare 3-in. (7.6 cm) diameter holes for blasting the granite.
Bob Godzik, an operator with Gary’s Grading and Pipeline, said he’s been using the new ECM-585 for approximately a month and really likes the excavator-style cab.
“It keeps you out of the dirt and dust and it’s quiet in there,” said Godzik, who also likes the ECM-585’s high-speed drilling rod changer.
Godzik said he’s using a 4.5-by-5-ft. grid pattern on the project and drills two holes in each grid. A 10-ft. depth is the maximum that should needed on the project.
“If conditions change we’ll have to adjust,” Godzik said.
The contractor also is using a Caterpillar 325C excavator-crawler to move pipe materials and excavate for water lines.
Magill said 100,000 cu. yds. (76,500 cu m) of dirt will have to be moved for the project. Approximately 70,000 cu. yds. (53,500 cu m) of dirt will be moved on site, but approximately 30,000 cu. yds. (23,000 cu m) will have to be brought from outside sources.
“We’ve got to shift quite a bit of material and we’ve got to find an outside source of dirt,” he said. “It’s a good chunk of material.”
Magill anticipates using the company’s John Deere 230LC excavator-crawler, a Komatsu D39 dozer and a Peterbilt 357 tandem truck for much of the dirt moving.
Much of the fine grading work will be performed by the company’s Caterpillar 613C scraper and a Caterpillar 140H motorgrader will also be used, as well as a Volvo L70D wheel loader to move materials.
Other equipment anticipated for the project includes an Ingersoll Rand SD-105F padfoot compactor and Broce RC-300 broom. Komatsu 220s and 250s will handle some of the pipe work, he said.
According to Snell, the project will need and include 144,500 tons (131,088 t) for 17 mi. (27.4 km) of asphalt paving; 120,000 sq. yds. (100,300 sq m) of milling; 39,800 ft. (12,100 m) of concrete pipe; and 400 cu. yds. (300 cu m) of culvert concrete. A subcontractor, Cla Neel Company, will install 19 mi. (31 km) or 7,100 cu. yds. (5,400 cu m) of concrete using a slipform curb machine in most locations for the project. The project will include more than 9 mi. (14.5 km) of concrete sidewalk using approximately 3,000 cu. yds. (2,300 cu m) of concrete.
Approximately 200 to 300 of the company’s 650 employees will be used on the project.
Another key factor for E.R. Snell will be traffic concerns during construction. An almost constant stream of traffic flows by the site during most hours of the day.
“Traffic volume is very high and it is expected the final roadway will help this situation tremendously,” Snell said. “During our first stage of construction, most of the traffic will remain in its current location. In later stages, traffic will be shifted to the newly built areas and one lane will remain open each way.”
All efforts will be made to keep traffic flow moving, but motorists can expect delays during construction, especially in the later stages.
“Unfortunately, the traffic will be affected during this stage because some of the turn lanes will be taken out for the new construction and this may cause traffic to back up,” Snell said.
Magill said safety is a foremost concern for workers and motorists. Once utilities are relocated, a task that should take approximately one year, the project should speed ahead.
“If all of the utilities were out of the way, we anticipated 18 months for construction,” he said. “It’s a little slower than I would like it to be right now.”
Subcontractors will provide grassing, signage, signals and video detection, water sampling, drainage boxes, milling, striping and handrails and fencing. Roger West Co. of North Carolina performed the grubbing and clearing. CEG