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U.S. 67 work on schedule
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — With construction work going on all along the 50-mile U.S. 67 corridor north of Poplar Bluff, area residents can see how the $180 million widening project is taking shape in many areas. About 200 workers are currently involved in the project.
Missouri Department of Transportation resident engineer Steve Bubanovich, who is supervising the work in Wayne and Butler counties, gave details during a recent tour.
"We have 140 people working on the corridor in Wayne and Butler counties," Bubanovich said. "MoDOT has 23 engineers and technicians working on the job in the two counties."
He expects the number of workers to increase to 300 when paving starts on the south end during the summer of 2009.
The spring flooding delayed work in areas covered by Wappapello Lake and a few other problems developed in certain areas, according to Bubanovich.
"But overall, we are on schedule," he added.
As Bubanovich drove north, he pointed out the completion of the concrete approaches for the new Black River and Union Pacific Railroad bridges in northern Butler County. These bridges will be for northbound traffic when the paving is completed. Time was given for the ground to settle before the approaches were built.
The new northbound lanes in the four miles of northern Butler County were created during the first contract. Work on the two bridges was going on at the same time.
Bubanovich said the contractor "may start minor grading in the fall" on the first four miles so the two new lanes will be ready for concrete paving during the summer of 2009.
Just two miles into Wayne County, trees have been cleared where a new stretch of Highway 49 will be constructed south of the existing road so it will intersect with U.S. 67 at Highway 172. This will eliminate the current Highway 49 intersection.
"It will not be long before we start moving dirt for Highway 49," Bubanovich said. "Trucks will be hauling dirt from one side of U.S. 67 to the other side."
Continuing north, a crew from a Winfield, Mo., firm had just completed installing drainage pipe after boring a hole under existing U.S. 67. They installed a steel sleeve to support the road and then put the concrete drainage pipe inside the steel pipe.
"It is more expensive to bore under the road, but we would have had to shut the highway to dig a trench," said Bubanovich.
Earthmoving equipment operators are leveling hills and hauling fill to elevate the new lanes 10 feet higher through the Otter Creek area.
"This was a bog. You couldn't walk across it," Bubanovich said. "We had to remove the water, so we placed approximately 1,200 wick drains in the ground."
Wick drains are a geosynthetic "rope" that acts as conduit for water to flow out of the soil and to the surface. They can rapidly increase the settlement of the soil.
"Using the wick drains and a two-foot drainable sand layer, we can control where the water is leaving the embankment, which will reduce the chances for any future failures," MoDOT assistant resident engineer Dave Wyman said.
A higher bridge is being constructed over Otter Creek and a box culvert is being installed on a branch of Otter Creek. A new bridge has been built over Widows Creek in southern Wayne County.
Water flowed over the highway in this area during the flood of 2002, according to Bubanovich.
Funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is being used to elevate the highway through Wappapello Lake overflow areas.
A four-lane bypass is being built west of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery south of Greenville.
"They are excavating a new channel for Pleasant Valley Creek and installing a double box culvert," Bubanovich said. Each section of the culvert will be 12 feet by 12 feet.
While driving across the four-lane bridge over the St. Francis River, he said a fenced pedestrian walkway will be created on the west side of the bridge and a concrete barrier will be constructed for a center divider.
"Robertson Contractors Inc. of Poplar Bluff did a nice job on the bridge," Bubanovich said. This bridge is 10 feet higher and cost nearly $10 million. The old two-lane iron bridge will be removed.
Then he drove a MoDOT four-wheel drive pickup up a steep hill overlooking Greenville and the bypass construction. A four-lane bypass is being built west of Greenville from the former ball field to south of Route D. There will be a crossover with turn lanes near the north end of the bypass where a new entrance road will be built into Greenville across from a restaurant.
Funds were given to Greenville for the construction of a new ball field north of the high
school. This work also is under way.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Greenville are creating a hiking/biking trail from the Old Greenville campground to Greenville. The trail will go through a box culvert under the bypass and partially follow the Old Military Road. The Old Greenville Recreation Trail is being financed with nearly $200,000 in federal enhancements funds.
A new entrance to Old Greenville will be created on the east side of the highway.
North of Greenville, Tammy Hefner, a MoDOT senior construction inspector, was viewing the construction of a triple box culvert to carry Bounds Creek under the new northbound lanes. Each section of the culvert is 12 feet by 15 feet.
"I have been pretty impressed with all the contractors," said Hefner, as she watched concrete mixer trucks arrive off Wayne County Road 220.
At the south edge of Silva, Wayne County Road 219 has been permanently closed to allow for construction of the new northbound lanes.
Clearing of trees has started for a four-lane bypass around the businesses at Highway 34 north of Silva, the creation of an interchange and the realignment of Highway 34 going to Piedmont.
Highway 34 going west will be moved south so traffic can go under a new 67 bridge and continue east. This will eliminate the current jog onto 67 for motorists traveling through the area.
The interchange, which is being financed with funds obtained by Sen. Kit Bond, will have southbound off and on ramps. The existing lanes will be used for off and on ramps for the northbound traffic.
A triple box culvert is being constructed at Hubble Creek. Each section of the culvert is a 16-foot square.
Bulldozers being used by an Iowa contractor are equipped with global positioning system technology.
"It is the equivalent of having 500 plan sheets in a box," Bubanovich said. The GPS information enables the bulldozer operator to know where to do grading or more rock needs to be dumped and spread out for the base of the new lanes.
A rock drill is being used to drill a hole where explosives are placed to blow up the rocky hillsides.
"We stop the traffic when the powder man sets off the charge," Bubanovich said. "We got quite a bit of material on the road north of Greenville recently."
Workers and equipment quickly removed the rocks from the highway within 15 minutes.
The north end of the 50-mile corridor goes through Madison County.
"We probably have 30 workers in the contractor forces and six MoDOT workers," said MoDOT Resident Engineer Matt Malone, who is supervising the work in Madison County.
A four-lane bypass is being constructed around Cherokee Pass area. It will extend three miles south from where the four-lane currently ends at Fredericktown. Malone said crossovers with turn lanes will be located at Highways A and C and at the south end of the Cherokee Pass area.
"Crews are mainly grading and working on box culverts for drainage," Malone said. "The only new bridge will be over Twelve Mile Creek one and one-half miles south of Cherokee Pass.
Other crews have been busy with shoulder work and repaving the existing lanes.
MoDOT officials are still hopeful they will beat the deadline of Dec. 31, 2012, for completing the entire project.