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Walton Construction Company Widens Hillcrest Road

Thu July 17, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Crews have been at work for a little more than a year widening a nearly 2-mi. (3.2 km) stretch of Hillcrest Road in Mobile, Ala., to accommodate increased traffic flow in the growing area.

Meanwhile, they’ve had to make sure not to exacerbate the problem.

“We have kept two lanes open during the whole project, so delays have been minimal,” said John G. Walton. president of John G. Walton Construction Company in Mobile. “No one has really complained. … I think most people in the surrounding area are delighted to see the project, as it will ease traffic congestion.”

The job includes widening the roadway from two to four lanes from Three Notch-Kroner Road to just north of Halls Mill Creek and the construction of a new bridge to replace the old two-lane span over the creek.

The job covers 33 acres (13 ha) and 1.9 mi. (3 km). It had an original cost of $8.9 million, Walton said, but there’s about a $600,000 overrun in “erosion control items and other various quantities on the job.”

The road-widening job entails grade, drain, base and pave of Hillcrest Road to create a four-lane road with a center turning lane.

The contract also includes replacement of an existing two-lane bridge with a new five-lane bridge, with two northbound and two southbound lanes and a center lane separation.

The job started in May 2007, with an estimated completion date in October, Walton said.

Because the contract specifies that two lanes must be kept open during the job, and traffic could not be detoured to another bridge to cross the creek, a two-lane portion of the new bridge was built and traffic routed onto it before the original bridge was dismantled, Walton said.

The new bridge will be a single five-lane, continuous bridge roughly 225 ft. (68.6 m) long, he said. It will have approximately 28 30-in. (76 cm) square concrete piling and 30 16-in. (40 cm) square concrete piling.

Newell Bush Inc. of Montgomery is the subcontractor on the bridge construction, with Jordan Pile Driving Inc. of Mobile as subcontractor on the piling construction, Walton said.

Other subcontractors on the job include: Mobile Asphalt Company LLC of Mobile, asphalt work; Azalea City Contracting LLC of Mobile, erosion control; C. Thornton Inc. of Mobile, concrete work; Construction Labor Services Inc. of Mobile, water and sewer work; H & L Construction Inc. of Troy, guardrail; Ozark Striping Company Inc. of Ozark, striping; and Bagby and Russell Electric Company Inc. of Mobile, traffic signals.

Various pieces of heavy equipment, including hydraulic excavators, dozers, motorgraders and rollers, have been working on the project, Walton said.

Several cranes have been used on the bridge work, including a 200-ton (181 t) Manitowoc 999 used for pile driving by Jordan, he said.

Some of the pieces Walton’s firm has used on the job are a Caterpillar 325 excavator, a Caterpillar D6H dozer, a Caterpillar D5G dozer, a Komatsu D68P dozer and two Komatsu PC220 excavators, all purchased from local dealers. Thompson Tractor Co. supplied the Caterpillars, and Tractor and Equipment Company supplied the Komatsus.

“Dealer service is excellent at all local dealers,” Walton said, “but we do most of our maintenance work with our own forces, as we have three mechanics on our payroll.”

Other equipment at work on the job includes a John Deere 590-D excavator, a Blaw-Knox PF3200 paver, a Kobelco SK210LC excavator, a Broce Broom sweeper and two Caterpillar CB 534 compactors.

Approximately 50,000 cu. yd. (38,200 cu m) of dirt is being moved on site, though most of this is cut to fill, so it is staying on site, Walton said.

Workers also have hauled in about 70,000 cu. yd. (53,500 cu m) of borrow to fill the site up to the desired elevations to build the roadway, he said.

Another 2,000 cu. yd. (1,500 cu m) of concrete was poured on the project, Walton said, and about 20,000 tons (18,100 t) of asphalt will be laid to complete the project.

Approximately 20 to 30 workers have been used on average on the project, including Walton’s workers and all subcontractors, he said. They are working a single shift, nine to 10 hours a day, five to six days a week.

An intensive emphasis on erosion control has cost a lot more time and money than originally anticipated for the project, Walton said.

Erosion control problems with other Alabama Department of Transportation projects in south Alabama have been spotlighted recently, leading the DOT to require more intensive erosion control measures on this project that have caused delays and slowed progress on the project, Walton said.

“We are dealing with this as best we can and think that most of any problems we have encountered have been controlled and taken care of,” he said.

Walton said the DOT’s response to possibly insufficient erosion control on past projects has been to swing in the other direction and, perhaps, be overly cautious.

“We’re spending more time doing erosion control and less on the project,” he said.

Walton said he expects the project will benefit the area in more than one way.

“Besides easing traffic congestion, I definitely think that economic development will be stimulated, as it is when most four-lane highways are built,” he said. “It will also ease congestion on the intersecting roads and highways by moving traffic more smoothly by opening up this four-lane road.” CEG

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