As MDOT Project Engineer William Howington relates, “The project will greatly improve safety and travel efficiency along this heavily traveled corridor – for both local and commercial traffic, along with those traveling from Meridian to Philadelphia. This will mean safer commutes and less congestion throughout the area. The project will greatly serve local traffic, school traffic, commuters, motorists traveling from Philadelphia to Meridian, and commercial traffic.
“Motorists visiting Philadelphia’s casino resorts will be able to utilize this newly improved roadway.
SR 19 is also the quickest route to the interstate from Philadelphia. These are some of the reasons why traffic has steadily increased along this corridor in recent years. Current and projected average daily travel for this corridor near Philadelphia is 6,100 vehicles; near Tucker it is 5,500 vehicles. The projected average daily travel for SR 19 throughout this stretch in 2040 is 9,700 vehicles.”
The project is being funded by a $25 million 2018 BUILD grant; and the remainder is 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state match, Howington reports. The U.S. DOT's Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grants program funds investments in transportation infrastructure.
W.G. Yates & Son Construction Company is the general contractor on the SR 19 project. The design engineer firm is Stantec, which was responsible for the design of the project plans. Other project partners include:
- APAC-Mississippi, Inc. – paving operations
- Kimes & Stone Construction Company – soil-cement and lime treatment operations
- Hall Construction, Inc. – box bridge construction
- Simmons Erosion Control, Inc. – installation of erosion control items and miscellaneous concrete items
There are three phases of the project, as Keith Clark, Project Manager for W.G. Yates & Sons Construction, explains. “Phase 1 constructs the new northbound lanes and reworks side roads on the west side of the existing Highway 19. Phase 1 also constructs the new intersection at Tucker Elementary School. Once Phase 1 is complete, two-way traffic will be switched to the newly constructed road so that work can begin on Phase 2. Phase 2 consists of rehabilitation of portions of existing Highway 19 and reconstruction of other portions where new cross drains or box culverts are required. In Phase 3, the traffic will be placed in the four-Lane configuration and the final lift of asphalt will be placed along with permanent striping.”
Adds Howington, “Work underway includes borrow excavation, excess excavation, unclassified excavation, installation of erosion control items, box culverts construction, soil-cement and lime treatment of sub-grade, soil-cement of subbase, and paving operations have started in several areas.
“Work to be done includes rerouting traffic onto the new lanes, milling and overlaying the current roadway, extending box culverts and pipe installations, and rerouting of county roads to the new alignment.”
Phase A hydraulic and roadway design begin in late 2003 and were completed in 2008. Right-of-way appraisals and acquisition commenced soon after the completion of Phase A plans, and all right-of-way was completed in December 2012. Utility relocation was completed in 2014.
After the project termini was revised In 2017, updated topographic and property survey data were collected and updates to the original design were begun. Phase A design changes were completed in 2018, and additional right-of-way acquisition was completed in October 2020. Phase B design for the project was completed in July 2020, utility relocation was completed in August 2020, and the project was bid in October 2020.
“We have also encountered some additional High Volume Change Soils that weren’t anticipated. Site access, however, has not been an issue since the Phase 1 construction of the two new lanes is adjacent to the existing highway.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created some challenges for the project,” he continues. “We have been following CDC protocols/recommendations for employees that became ill or were exposed to the virus. This would leave crews shorthanded at times, slowing production.”
The issues of maintenance of traffic and public awareness of any disruptions caused by the ongoing work have been carefully addressed, Howington adds. “Lane closures are planned and dependent upon the work being done. Once the work is determined, the length of lane closures vary to give workers the safest possible workplace. Emergency and school officials are notified several weeks before lane closures occur to give communities ample time prepare. MDOT’s Traffic Management Center – via MDOTtraffic.com and the MDOTtraffic mobile app – along with MDOT’s Public Affairs Division – via @MississippiDOT on social media – have communicated lane closures via traffic alerts to the media and public before and during closures.”
“There are over 13,300 linear feet of cross drain and driveway pipe varying in size from 18-inch to 54-inch diameter, along with various sizes of reinforced concrete arch pipe. There are over 4,600 cubic yards of Class 'B' structural concrete being used for construction of box culverts and box bridges.
“During peak times, Yates will have 40 to 50 employees on site. Depending on the work being performed by subcontractors, there would be an additional 20 people working on site.”
He reports that the grading crews are utilizing Caterpillar 360 Excavators for loading the unclassified excavation and pipe laying operations, and third-party dump trucks for hauling material on the project. GPS machine controlled Caterpillar dozers and motor graders are also utilized for the grading operations.
The State Route 19 Expansion Project will prepare a busy Mississippi traffic corridor for the even heavier traffic levels expected in future years. As Howington reiterates, “Expanding from two to four lanes will improve every angle of travel for this stretch of SR 19, from safety to efficiency. That means safer driving conditions and quicker travel. We’re realigning some of the local roads to tie into the new four lane as well, making it a safer and more convenient travel experience.
“Overall, expanding this roadway will help to safely usher in the increasing daily traffic along SR 19, meaning less congestion, and will have a positive economic impact for the businesses and communities throughout the area.”
Photos courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Transportation