Construction workers have been taking the “thump, thump, thump out” on U.S. Highway 67/167 below Beebe to Judsonia as part of improvements to the road that are expected to take until April 2022, according to Arkansas Department of Transportation resident engineer Casey Chastain.
Work on the southern part of the project began in December and Chastain gave an update to The Daily Citizen this week.
“There are numerous things that are happening, like on the concrete pavement itself,” he said. “We are patching up the broken up slabs, we’re patching the concrete pavement and then after that they are doing a diamond grind on the pavement itself,” he said.
Chastain said drivers who have gone through the construction probably have noticed the machines set up with diamond saw blades.
“There’s like around 55 of those saw blades per foot; there’s real thin spacers between those saw blades,” he said. “If you’ve noticed, there’s a definite improvement in the ride. That takes that thump, thump, thump out.’”
With the bridges on the highway, “we are pouring new approach gutters and rails and we’re attaching an updated style of guard rail on to these old bridges,” Chastain said.
“This old stuff was built around 1970,” he said. “The bridges actually started in ’68 or ’69 – the bridges from Beebe up to the [Searcy Municpal] Airport. It was paved and opened up in 1973 from Beebe up to the airport, Exit 42.
The main contractor, Emery Sapp and Sons Inc., is doing the concrete patching and the diamond grinding. Beverly’s Construction is doing the approach gutters and slabs at the bridges. Another subcontractor is doing the asphalt paving. Emery Sapp and Sons Inc. was contracted for the project at $20,889,159.
The concrete crew, if it gets too hot, will move to night work, Chastain said. The other workers work at a slower pace and take frequent breaks, he added.
As part of the work, the shoulders are going to be built up and repaved.
“The shoulders have been in bad need of maintenance,” Chastain said. “It was opened up to traffic in 1973 and then they opened it in 1975 to stretch to Searcy to Race Street and then in got opened up in 1977 to Bald Knob. That kind of lets you know how old this is. It’s time to do something with it.
“This is not an interstate highway. I mean, it is built as an interstate standard but it is not an interstate until it gets hooked up in Missouri. It’s a U.S. Highway so it doesn’t qualify for the big rehabilitation pot of money.”
He said the funds for the highway work comes from the gas tax and they have different pots of money set up for highway depending on whether it’s an interstate or not. Interstates get the larger pot of money, so what we’re doing out here is probably a fourth of the cost of a total rehabilitation or reconstruction like we did up in Bald Knob in two phases back in ’01 and in 2013 we did another job that didn’t get finished until 2015.”
The northern part of the project from Bald Knob to Newport is expected to be finished next spring, Chastain said.