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Interstate 55 work between Byram and I-20 to be rebid

I-55By Jack Weatherly
Work on the 7.5-mile, heavily traveled stretch of Interstate 55 between Byram and the I-20 interchange will be halted temporarily so that a new method can be used to address unanticipated soil conditions, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation spokesman Jarrod Ravencraft.

Ravencraft said Tuesday afternoon that “the traveling public will not notice any difference in the work [but] we’re going to a design-build contract to finish the job.”

The design-build process puts design and construction under one contract. It is used in 45 states, and has been used in Mississippi, including the rebuilding of the Biloxi Bay Bridge and Bay St. Louis Bridge after Hurricane Katrina in 2005

The $94 million project will be halted starting on Jan. 19 and rebid. The department was not unhappy with James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, Ravencraft said.  And it will be able to bid on the project, he said.

A phone call to James Construction was not returned.

After the halting of work, maintenance and public safety will be the priorities before the re-engineering of the project is begun, Ravencraft said.

He said the project had encountered “unique soil conditions” involving “red clay.”

A belt of Yazoo clay runs through central Mississippi and is the bane of construction, whether it’s roadways or residences and other buildings.

The Mississippi Business Journal was unable to reach an engineer with the Department of Transportation before deadline to explain further the soil situation.

A new contract will advertised, probably on Jan. 12, Ravencraft said. The Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet on Jan. 27. Presumably, recommendations will be presented to the commission at that meeting.

“We’re going to do our best to stay within the original budget” and make a late 2016 deadline, he said.

Two lanes are being added to the stretch of I-55, bringing it to six lanes.

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About Jack Weatherly

One comment

  1. I don’t know how this could possibly be “unanticipated soil conditions.”

    In the first place, everyone knows there is a layer of Yazoo clay throughout the area, up to several hundred feet thick. Jackson even dug up a bunch of it in the immediate vicinity of the project under McDowell Road several years ago. It’s no secret.

    In the second place, you simply don’t start design, much less construction, of a $94 million project without first doing a lot of soil borings to determine exactly what you’re dealing with all along the project corridor, regardless of what you “think” you have.

    MDOT really screwed this up.

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