Work on 61 South to start in March

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

Adding a new riding surface on about nine miles of U.S. 61 South is expected to start March 11 and stretch into midsummer, according to a bid notice issued by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The contract will be to patch small holes and long, rain-catching ruts that have developed over time in all lanes of the roadway.

Crews then will apply new asphalt and lane markings from the intersection with Pemberton Boulevard to the Hancor plant, just north of Redbone Road.

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Specific instructions for improvements between Signal Hill and Hancor are in the contract, allowing for slopes and curves in the road. That stretch contains most of the drainage problems and has been the scene of about a third of all vehicle accidents in recent years. Two fatal wrecks claimed the lives of Warren County Coroner John Thomason, in 2006, and Warren County sheriff’s deputy Tom Wilson, in 2009.

Both officials were alone in their vehicles that apparently hydroplaned after rains filled ruts with water. After Wilson’s death, MDOT milled away some asphalt in an apparent attempt to improve drainage, but did not expedite the resurfacing, which had been scheduled for this spring.

The project skips over the Signal Hill area, resurfaced in 2008 at the then end of a slope stabilization project that took three years. Similar work resulted in a new surface on nine miles of U.S. 61 North in 2008, financed with $5.5 million in federal money.

Bids will be taken by MDOT through Jan. 26, with a contract awarded by Feb. 9. Once on the ground, crews will work on most segments between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. when traffic is light, MDOT Central District Engineer Kevin Magee said.

Fines for speeding in work zones are doubled, as per state-set work zone regulations. Most miles of 61 inside Vicksburg municipal limits have posted limits at 45 miles per hour.

Construction is to take 89 work days, or “time units,” according to project documents, not counting days of inclement weather. Preparations for the major road construction since last summer have included new signs at major crossings and density tests to the existing surface.

Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at