Work on Alabama’s SR-9 Gets Under Way

Wed April 07, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby


According to the project manager, the equipment being used at this stage of the job includes “a swarm of Caterpillars.”
According to the project manager, the equipment being used at this stage of the job includes “a swarm of Caterpillars.”
According to the project manager, the equipment being used at this stage of the job includes “a swarm of Caterpillars.” Near the intersection of U.S. 331 and Ala. 94 the new roadway will swing away from the existing route, involving construction of a new four-lane stretch of highway crossing two pond areas.  Filling in the pond areas is part of the first phase of work. The area is more rolling terrain than hilly, and won’t require any drastic cuts. The local soil is more clay than sand, according to the project manager, so once it gets a hold of moisture, it doesn’t want to let go.

Starting roadwork in winter in Alabama, you expect some rainy days. But since early December, when crews began work to widen a stretch of Ala. 9/U.S. 331 south of Montgomery, there has been so much rain — and even some snow — that it has affected the job, said James Lee, project manager of contractor W.S. Newell Inc., Montgomery, Ala.

“Excessive rain has slowed our progress so far,” Lee said. “When it’s raining, it’s pretty much washing us out.”

And there’s also a residual effect, because the local soil is more clay than sand, he said.

“Once it gets a hold of moisture, it doesn’t want to let go,” Lee said. “We’re in the grading phase. Once the dirt gets so wet we can’t get compaction, we have to dry it out.”

The $14.9 million project — which will extend four-laning of the highway almost 5 mi. south through rural Montgomery County — got under way Dec. 7, with the low-bid contract calling for work to be completed within 400 working days, Lee said.

The 4.7-mi. (7.5 km) stretch starts just south of Ada, runs north through Sprague and mostly entails building two new lanes parallel to the current roadway, Lee said. 

However, near the intersection of U.S. 331 and Ala. 94 (on the Ada end of the job), the new roadway will swing away from the existing route, involving construction of a new four-lane stretch of highway crossing two pond areas, he said.     

Filling in the pond areas is part of the first phase of work, Lee said.

Major items of work on the project are clearing and grubbing; unclassified excavation; muck excavation; borrow excavation; underwater backfill; underwater embankment; lime stabilization; asphalt paving; culvert extensions; placement of reinforced concrete pipe, ranging from 18 to 48 in. (45.7 to 121.9 cm); placement of Class 2 rip rap; installation of water main, 6 and 3 in. (15.2 and 7.6 cm); erosion control items and a crushed aggregate base course.

The area is more rolling terrain than hilly, and won’t require any drastic cuts, he said.

“We’ve got some cuts and fills, not real deep cuts and fills.” 

Equipment being used at this stage of the job includes a swarm of Caterpillars: D-6 wide-track dozers, a D-7 dozer, a D-6R dozer, a D-8L dozer, 627 scrapers, 330 excavators, a 235 excavator, a 324 excavator, a 140M motorgrader, a 140H motorgrader, a 563 sheepfoot roller, a 257 skid steer, a 963 track loader with root rake, a D-8N dozer, a 430 backhoe, an 815 sheepfoot roller and a 980G loader.

The Caterpillar equipment was purchased from Thompson Tractor Co., Lee said.

Also on the job are: Ingersoll Rand rollers, purchased from Cowin Equipment Company Inc.; a John Deere 4440 tractor and blower, a John Deere 410E backhoe and a John Deere 450G dozer, purchased from Warrior Tractor & Equipment Co. Inc.; a Komatsu 300 excavator and Komatsu C600LC, purchased from Tractor and Equipment Co.; and a Volvo L-90 loader, a Volvo A-40D mud truck and a Volvo EC360B LC, purchased from ASC Construction Equipment.

Lee said his company is satisfied with the service all of these dealers provide.

“Service has been excellent by all,” he said.

Only two subcontractors are currently active on the job, though there is a short list of others pending contracts for other portions of the project, including paving, Lee said.

Subcontractors on the job are: H&L Construction Inc., for culverts, drainage structures and guardrail, and Parker Grassing, for grassing, mulch, sod and  landscape plants.

There are 35 people on the job now, with about 10 to 12 more expected to be added to the job at its height, Lee said.

Because they are at a very early stage of the job, with about 6.8 percent completed, Lee said they would rather not project how much asphalt the project will require.

An estimated 831,991 cu. yds. (636,102 cu m) of material will be moved on the job, with an estimated 428,819 cu. yds. (327,855 cu m) of material coming from off-site, Lee said.

Concrete to be placed on job includes 750 cu. yds. (573 cu m) for culverts and 419 cu. yds. (320 cu m) for slope paving, he said.

Right now, the job isn’t having a significant impact on the surrounding community, as no detours are yet in effect, Lee said.

There will be some traffic phasing on the job as work progresses, he said. Once they get a section of the roadway up to grade and paved, they will shift traffic to the new lanes so they can work on another part.

The two towns that the roadwork is going through — Ada and Sprague — are tiny, rural towns, Lee said. So far, traffic through the work area has been relatively light. 

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like with Spring Break traffic, summertime traffic coming through,” he said.

While the wet weather has thrown off W.S. Newell’s work schedule for the job, Lee said the rain days won’t count against the company because instead of setting a deadline date for completion, the contract calls for a maximum number of work days. Days when rain makes it impossible to work are not counted as work days, he said.

Although winter is normally a wet season for Alabama, this winter has been much wetter than usual, Lee said. This year’s snowfall also was an anomaly .

While they’ve done it before, Lee said his crews work primarily around the Montgomery area and normally don’t have to deal with snow. 

He said they were working on the job when the area got some snow this winter,  

“We were actually in it, trying to work,” Lee said. “It felt like rain, other than it’s cold.”