Midsouth Paving Upgrades Alabama’s Interstate 85
Going with the Flow: Midsouth Paving Improves Efficiency and Safety with I-85 and Eastern Boulevard Improvements
The Alabama Department of Transportation’s (ALDOT) Interstate 85 and Eastern Boulevard improvement project in Montgomery will move traffic more efficiently.
“We’re doing this project in order to improve traffic flow through the area,” says Brantley Kirk, Spokesperson for ALDOT. “Currently there are two lanes, and it will be three lanes when we complete the capacity building project.”
In addition to resurfacing I-85 from Eastern Boulevard to Taylor Road, the project includes extending the exit ramp at Eastern Boulevard, creating dual left and right turn lanes at the top of the Eastern Boulevard ramp and lengthening the right exit ramp to Taylor Road.
“Especially in the evening hours, exiting traffic backs up onto the mainline interstate,” Kirk says. “We want to move traffic as quickly and safely as possible. Part of that is the widening, but also adding the signals and another turn lane on the ramps will make a big difference in getting traffic through on the boulevard and interstate.”
I-85 carries 115,060 vehicles daily and Eastern Boulevard 55,000 vehicles daily. A few apartment buildings, hotels, and many other businesses populate the area. “It is a main thoroughfare through the city,” Kirk says.
Also included in the project are dual right turn lanes with signals onto the I-85 ramps, north and south, just north of Carmichael Road. There will also be upgraded signage and signals.
“We are trying to improve the area and get the traffic through,” Kirk says. “We realize it is a tight area, especially during morning and evening rush hours. This area is always busy.”
Plans for the State’s Roads
The project meshes with ALDOT’s mission of providing a safe, efficient, environmentally and economically sound transportation network across Alabama.
This year, during a special session, the Alabama legislature passed and Governor Kay Ellen Ivey signed the Rebuild Alabama Act, a bill that will gradually increase the gas tax by 10 cents. Two-thirds of the money raised will be distributed to the state transportation department, 25 percent to counties and 8.33 percent to city road and bridge projects. Additionally, the state fuel tax will be indexed to the National Highway Construction Cost Index, and the state will charge owners of electric vehicles an annual registration fee.
“What the legislature did today was to improve Alabama’s infrastructure for generations to come,” Ivey said at the bill signing ceremony. “This has been a bipartisan and team effort.”
Ivey promised the state would be good stewards of the funds raised and use the revenue to build a brighter future for the state.
Midsouth Paving of Birmingham, Alabama received the $16.4 million Interstate 85 and Eastern Boulevard contract. The company began in 1900 as Warren Brothers Co., operating in Nashville, Tennessee and expanded into Alabama six years later. During the following century the name changed several times as it changed ownership. CRH Americas Inc. (formerly Oldcastle Materials Inc.) acquired the company in 2006 and changed the name to Midsouth Paving. In addition to construction, Midsouth Paving has an aggregate division called Midsouth Aggregates. Together, the companies operate in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.
“While 71,000 tons of hot mix asphalt needs to be placed, the scope of this project goes beyond traditional paving or widening work,” says Charlie Cook, Area Manager for Midsouth Paving. “This is a result of a significant focus on roadway improvement by the Alabama Department of Transportation to increase safety measure and get vehicles moving more efficiently.”
Work began in May 2018 and is expected to finish this summer, even with stormy winter weather.
To increase communications to the traveling public, Cook says, this project includes close to a $1 million investment in overhead signage and approximately $1.25 million worth of traffic posts, lights and control boxes for new intersection improvements on the Eastern Boulevard.
“Additionally, the job includes $750,000 for closed circuit TV cameras and the infrastructure to support it,” he says. “Making this happen has involved the coordination and hard work of 15 different subcontractors.”
Lane closures cannot occur during peak hours. Closures are limited to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with no closures on Friday or Saturday nights.
“That is to help the traveling public,” Kirk says. “The contractor has been doing as much as it can, when it can.”
Local law enforcement also assists with managing traffic slowdowns as required, Cook says. This includes flashing blue lights and radar signage to help keep the public informed.
“Hours-of-service laws related to truck drivers also impact the progress of projects, because we perform a lot of work at night,” Cook says. “Truck drivers who operate a truck during a daytime shift may be unable to switch to a nighttime shift in the same week, so coordination of trucks can be very difficult.”
Cook reports a portable barrier wall leading up to Taylor Road and on Eastern Boulevard also has coverage with barrels to segregate traffic from ongoing paving and construction.
During the cold months, Midsouth Paving had to suspend paving, although a grading contractor continued on the project.
“We use complex equipment to perform the paving work and to improve safety, such as using radar signs to help with managing speed near our work zones when workers are present,” Cook adds.
Some of the new traffic control features planned for Eastern Boulevard required a long lead time, Cook explains. Any delays to the delivery and installation of these components can affect the timeline of the whole job.
Most work is taking place within existing right of way. The bridges already were designed to accommodate a future widening, now taking place, so the project does not require any bridgework.
“The rideability of paving work completed so far has been very good, and we expect that to continue through the final layers,” Cook says. “This project is on a major transportation artery within the area, and the ride and safety improvements that will result when the project is completed is greatly needed. Midsouth Paving is proud to partner with ALDOT to make these improvements.”