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Third phase of ‘The Stack’ on schedule despite challenges

There have been perhaps more challenging projects in Mississippi, and maybe there have been more visible ones. But perhaps never have these two aspects been combined into a single project more than Stack III, the expansion of the major interchange in Jackson of Interstates 20 and 55 and U.S. 49 currently underway by Falkner-based Hill Brothers Construction and Engineering Company.

Construction on Stack III began last March. The work involves the reconstruction of more than five miles of I-20, I-55 and U.S. 49, including the construction of a new fly-over bridge connecting the three major thoroughfares. Due to the high traffic count, work on Stack III has been conducted at night and on weekends. (Work outside the traffic areas has been conducted during the day.) Despite this and some frequent adverse weather conditions, the work is going as planned.

“Remarkably, we are exactly where we need to be according to the contractor’s schedule,” said Ken Wallace, project manager at the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). “We have been very fortunate that there have been no major problems or set-backs up to this point, and we are positive about reaching our completion goal of December 2006.”

According to Mississippi Transportation Commission chairman Dick Hall, some of this success can be attributed to the built-in safety measure called the service patrol.

“A tow truck monitors the entire limits of the construction area day and night for any motorist in trouble,” Hall said.

Hill Brothers was founded in 1978, and is one of the 10-largest building contractors based in Mississippi with more than 600 employees. The firm currently has 80 workers assigned to Stack III, with another 30-40 subcontractor personnel on the job. And while the service patrol is intended as a benefit to the public, Paul Leonards, project engineer at Hill Brothers, said the extra safety measures have also helped keep the firm’s workers safe and contributed to the project staying on schedule.

“The service patrol has been recognized by the traveling public well. We have received many phone calls that praise the service and its operators,” Leonards said. “We feel that the patrol assists us in all closures and keeps traffic flowing safely around our work. The MDOT has also supplied the project with a full-time highway patrol officer. This is a wonderful aspect to the project since the traffic is more observant of the speeds and work areas with the blue lights present.”

Leonards said Hill Brothers is no rookie when it comes to night work. The firm has previously conducted projects in the dark, but it still requires careful planning and extra attention to safety measures.

“It is challenging working around heavy equipment at night as safety hazards are more numerous when sight is limited,” Leonards said. “We are limited in lighting and have to use light plants to work. We require our employees to wear reflective vests for visibility.”

Leonards said 60% of the frontage road work has been completed. The bridges located on the western half of the project are 80% complete, and the flyover bridge is at 20% completion. The roadway work is 60% done, and Hill Brothers is placing concrete pavement in an effort to switch to a new phase of I-55.

Work on the Stack does not end with phase three. A fourth phase is planned, consisting of construction between Gallatin Street and Stack III. Specifically, Stack IV will include:

• Re-constructing the State Street-I-20/55 entrance ramp, moving the entrance onto I-20/55 further east.

• Construction of a new ramp off Gallatin Street south of I-55, which will provide both an entrance ramp onto I-55 and a connector ramp that connects back to State Street.

• Widening and reconstruction of the Gallatin Street off ramp.

• Widening of all lanes and bridges on I-20/55 to provide for additional lanes.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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