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Vital Part of Corridor X Nears Completion

Wed November 07, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

A significant piece in the long-running Corridor X interstate project to connect Birmingham, Ala., and Memphis, Tenn., could be completed in time for Thanksgiving travel.

The roughly $3.7 million paving and finishing job — covering 13.3 mi. (21.4 km) to complete the link for the future Interstate 22 from U.S. 78 at Graysville, Ala., to Memphis — is on target for the highway to open in mid-November, said John Brown, vice president of Good Hope Contracting Inc. of Cullman, Ala.

The 176-mi. (283.2 km) route of Corridor X — part of the Appalachian Development Highway System — roughly parallels U.S. 78 to provide an interstate, and thus a growth corridor, connecting Interstate 65 and Interstate 20 through northwest Alabama and northern Tennessee to Interstate 55 and Interstate 40. The part of future I-22 east of Fulton, Miss., was approved in 1978 as Corridor X, and parts of the highway have been under construction ever since.

Good Hope’s contract includes placing the final layer of plant mix, striping and signing on the roughly 13 mi. (21.4 km) of roadway — “everything to get ready to open to traffic,” Brown said.

He said his company also had the base and paving contract on about 7 mi. (11.2 km) of the stretch of highway between Jasper, Ala., and Graysville, with the roughly 6-mi. (9.6 km) remainder contracted to Birmingham-based Dunn Construction.

The Jasper to Graysville stretch will be the last segment of Corridor X to open to through-traffic until the roadway is linked to I-65, which is estimated to be completed in late 2010 to mid-2011, said ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris.

Approximately 6.5 mi. (10.5 km) of the roadway east of U.S. 78 to Cherry Avenue will remain open to local traffic only while the last part of the highway is built from Cherry Avenue to I-65 and work for the tie-in at I-65, which includes expanding a portion of the interstate from six lanes to eight lanes, is completed, Harris said.

“It will be necessary to add lanes north and south of the project [on I-65] in order to accommodate the … junction that will be created,” he said.

London, Ky.-based Elmo Greer & Sons LLC is currently working on construction of part of the remaining segment from Cherry Avenue to I-65 in downtown Birmingham, Harris said.

It’s the largest earthmoving project in Alabama history, involving moving approximately 6 million cu. yd. (4.6 million cu m) of dirt, he said.

Close to 4 million cu. yd. (3 million cu m) of dirt have been moved already, said Harris, noting the contract includes work through the grading only for about 2 mi. (3.2 km) of the roughly 4.3 mi. (6.9 km) stretch.

Construction through the grading of the roadway east of that job is scheduled to go to contract later this year, he said.

“That means drivers on I-65 may be able to see some activity early next year,” Harris said.

Drivers also soon will see construction related to Corridor X on I-65 itself, he said.

A contract was recently let on related work to prepare I-65 for the traffic that will tie in from future I-22, starting with adding a lane in each direction from 16th Street north to 41st Avenue, Harris said. R.R. Dawson Bridge Co. was the low-bidder at $73 million.

It was significant because the bid was just a little more than the low end of the bid estimate, which was $72.9 million to $89.1 million, Harris said, leading ALDOT officials to hope the remaining pieces of the project also will bid lower than anticipated.

He said that the highest of the three bids received was $82.1 million.

Harris said it’s likely a number of factors worked together to result in the lower-than-expected bids.

Some of the industry inflationary points — like steel, concrete and fuel costs — that they’ve been tracking to estimate construction costs for future projects have leveled off, he said.

Meanwhile, Harris said, they’re seeing more competition in Alabama for available construction jobs and more out-of-state contractors bidding.

The contract for the next phase of work on I-65, including additional lanes from 41st Avenue to Walkers Chapel Road and including features, like ramps, that will be part of the junction, will be let in early 2008, he said, and it will be interesting to see where the bids come in compared to the estimate.

Good Hope Contracting started work on its latest Corridor X job on Aug. 30, according to Harris.

Brown said his company is placing approximately 30,000 tons (27,200 t) of plant mix produced by a CMI portable drum plant located about a mile from the project.

The final paving mix is a polymer modified open graded friction course, he said.

While fairly expensive, the porous mix cuts down on water spray and somewhat muffles noise, Brown said.

Equipment being used includes an RP-190 Roadtec paver, an SB-2500 Roadtec Shuttle Buggy, two Caterpillar CB-564D rollers, a Broce broom sweeper and an Etynre asphalt distributor, he said.

The equipment was purchased from Roadtec, Thompson Tractor and Cowin Equipment, Brown said.

“We have an excellent relationship with all of these firms, and their service is very commendable,” he said.

The company has had 25 “highly skilled workers” on this project, Brown said.

Subcontractors on the job are Kelly Road Builders of Birmingham, a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE), which did the milling; Safety Guide of Alabama, which is doing the signs, Ozark Striping Company of Ozark, Ala., which is doing the striping; and H & J Contractors of Jasper, Ala., which has done some of the trucking and is also a minority-owned business.

Kelly Road Builders did an excellent job on its part of the project, Brown said.

So far, there have been no problems on the job.

Brown said his company went after the contract because of the project’s high profile.

“It gives us a chance to showcase our company,” he said. “We are proud of our people and the work they do. We believe that the excellent workmanship of this project along with the smooth ride achieved will win an award.

“This project should have a tremendous economic impact on the communities along this newly opened route,” Brown said.

Good Hope’s previous contract for Corridor X work — a $25 million job finished in August — involved placing 200,000 tons (181,400 t) of crushed aggregate base and 500,000 tons (453,000 t) of plant mix.

“The aggregates for the base and plant mix were produced at our sandstone quarry operated by our sister company, Blount Springs Materials,” Brown said.

The late 2010 to mid-2011 timeline to complete the tie-in reflects the priority Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and state Department of Transportation Director Joe McInnes have placed on the project, accelerating lettings and pushing contractors to meet or finish ahead of deadlines.

“That’s a lot of construction in a short period of time compared to the life of this project,” said Harris, noting construction work for Corridor X in Alabama started from the state line in the late 1970s. “We’ve got 96 miles of this thing in Alabama.” CEG

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