MDOT: I-55 lane widening project delayed - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

MDOT: I-55 lane widening project delayed

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

Six months into a $94 million lane-widening project for the portion of Interstate 55 that runs from I-20 to Byram, MDOT officials say a contractor discovered something no one expected.

"We do widenings all across the state, and we've never really run into this," MDOT executive director Melinda McGrath said. 

"The contractor that had originally built the interstate had taken the [Yazoo] clay he dug out -- or she, whatever -- and they dumped it out on that slope."

MDOT had already taken samples to find where that Yazoo clay naturally runs under the interstate, but didn't check the slope because it was man-made.

In addition to that, previous designs for the stretch of I-55 had something called a moment slab functioning as a retaining wall for one of the frontage roads, which McGrath calls a design flaw.

"Because of the retaining walls and there being so much of it, it totally changed the way the contractor now needs to construct the job," she said.

The clay and other issues will push the completion of this project back a full year from what MDOT projected when the road project was first announced in 2013, meaning it will likely be open in late 2016.

Because of these unforeseen circumstances, McGrath said they'll have to also rebid the project. James Construction Group will halt its work by Jan. 19, and new bids will be issued.

McGrath said if they had continued with the same contractor, this $94 million project could have easily ballooned another $50 million or more and taken much longer.

"He was saying like another two and a half years, two to two-and-a-half years. That is not acceptable, and that's why we think that a design build that emphasizes time is the right way to go," McGrath said.

How much this new bid will ultimately cost, though, remains to be seen.

"We're not sure yet. We're going through the work that's been completed to date plus what else has to be done, so we just don't have that number yet," McGrath said.

The discovery is also changing how MDOT addresses future projects, Mcgrath added.

She said they're taking more than twice as many soil samples on a current design project on Highway 49 south of I-20, and that will be the standard on any lane-widening project going forward.

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