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Mississippi DOT Expansion Project Widens, Upgrades State Route 19 in Neshoba County

by: Mark Bird
Workers for Simmons Erosion Control work on drainage as part of the SR 19 expansion in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Workers for Simmons Erosion Control work on drainage as part of the SR 19 expansion in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Along State Route 19 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, drivers traveling between the towns of Philadelphia and Tucker will soon reap multiple benefits from a current Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) project. The $35.5 million SR 19 Expansion Project, scheduled for completion in 2024, will expand a 4.6-mile stretch of the highway to four lanes between the two towns. Upgrades to the connecting roads and side streets are also major components of the project.

As MDOT Project Engineer William Howington relates, “The project will greatly improve safety and travel efficiency along this heavily traveled corridor – for both local and commercial traffic, along with those traveling from Meridian to Philadelphia. This will mean safer commutes and less congestion throughout the area. The project will greatly serve local traffic, school traffic, commuters, motorists traveling from Philadelphia to Meridian, and commercial traffic.

“Motorists visiting Philadelphia’s casino resorts will be able to utilize this newly improved roadway.

SR 19 is also the quickest route to the interstate from Philadelphia. These are some of the reasons why traffic has steadily increased along this corridor in recent years. Current and projected average daily travel for this corridor near Philadelphia is 6,100 vehicles; near Tucker it is 5,500 vehicles. The projected average daily travel for SR 19 throughout this stretch in 2040 is 9,700 vehicles.”

The project is being funded by a $25 million 2018 BUILD grant; and the remainder is 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state match, Howington reports. The U.S. DOT's Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grants program funds investments in transportation infrastructure.

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W.G. Yates & Son Construction Company is the general contractor on the SR 19 project. The design engineer firm is Stantec, which was responsible for the design of the project plans. Other project partners include:

  • APAC-Mississippi, Inc. – paving operations
  • Kimes & Stone Construction Company – soil-cement and lime treatment operations
  • Hall Construction, Inc. – box bridge construction
  • Simmons Erosion Control, Inc. – installation of erosion control items and miscellaneous concrete items

There are three phases of the project, as Keith Clark, Project Manager for W.G. Yates & Sons Construction, explains. “Phase 1 constructs the new northbound lanes and reworks side roads on the west side of the existing Highway 19. Phase 1 also constructs the new intersection at Tucker Elementary School. Once Phase 1 is complete, two-way traffic will be switched to the newly constructed road so that work can begin on Phase 2. Phase 2 consists of rehabilitation of portions of existing Highway 19 and reconstruction of other portions where new cross drains or box culverts are required. In Phase 3, the traffic will be placed in the four-Lane configuration and the final lift of asphalt will be placed along with permanent striping.”

Adds Howington, “Work underway includes borrow excavation, excess excavation, unclassified excavation, installation of erosion control items, box culverts construction, soil-cement and lime treatment of sub-grade, soil-cement of subbase, and paving operations have started in several areas.

“Work to be done includes rerouting traffic onto the new lanes, milling and overlaying the current roadway, extending box culverts and pipe installations, and rerouting of county roads to the new alignment.”

Project Planning Spans Three Decades
The project has been under development since the 1990s, when engineering studies were performed. An environmental evaluation was approved in 1999. Preliminary hydraulic, topographic, and property surveys for the original termini were completed in 2003. The original project termini extended from SR 492 near House to Philadelphia, but the scope was later reduced due to funding constraints.

Phase A hydraulic and roadway design begin in late 2003 and were completed in 2008. Right-of-way appraisals and acquisition commenced soon after the completion of Phase A plans, and all right-of-way was completed in December 2012. Utility relocation was completed in 2014.

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After the project termini was revised In 2017, updated topographic and property survey data were collected and updates to the original design were begun. Phase A design changes were completed in 2018, and additional right-of-way acquisition was completed in October 2020. Phase B design for the project was completed in July 2020, utility relocation was completed in August 2020, and the project was bid in October 2020.

Meeting Weather, Traffic Maintenance Challenges
Regarding construction challenges on the project, Clark comments, “As always in heavy civil construction industry weather is a concern. The project has experienced several intense and extended rain events since we began construction, but our crews have worked hard to maintain the construction schedule.

“We have also encountered some additional High Volume Change Soils that weren’t anticipated. Site access, however, has not been an issue since the Phase 1 construction of the two new lanes is adjacent to the existing highway.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created some challenges for the project,” he continues. “We have been following CDC protocols/recommendations for employees that became ill or were exposed to the virus. This would leave crews shorthanded at times, slowing production.”

The issues of maintenance of traffic and public awareness of any disruptions caused by the ongoing work have been carefully addressed, Howington adds. “Lane closures are planned and dependent upon the work being done. Once the work is determined, the length of lane closures vary to give workers the safest possible workplace. Emergency and school officials are notified several weeks before lane closures occur to give communities ample time prepare. MDOT’s Traffic Management Center – via MDOTtraffic.com and the MDOTtraffic mobile app – along with MDOT’s Public Affairs Division – via @MississippiDOT on social media – have communicated lane closures via traffic alerts to the media and public before and during closures.”

Large-Scale Project Will Benefit Drivers and Entire Area
Clark provides figures which illustrate the scope of the project. “Major earthwork items on the project had plan quantities of 581,501 cubic yards of unclassified excavation and 206,839 cubic yards of B17 borrow excavation. This project will have over 63,700 tons of crushed stone for base and shoulders, and 71,000 tons of asphalt placed once it is completed.

“There are over 13,300 linear feet of cross drain and driveway pipe varying in size from 18-inch to 54-inch diameter, along with various sizes of reinforced concrete arch pipe. There are over 4,600 cubic yards of Class 'B' structural concrete being used for construction of box culverts and box bridges.

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“During peak times, Yates will have 40 to 50 employees on site. Depending on the work being performed by subcontractors, there would be an additional 20 people working on site.”

He reports that the grading crews are utilizing Caterpillar 360 Excavators for loading the unclassified excavation and pipe laying operations, and third-party dump trucks for hauling material on the project. GPS machine controlled Caterpillar dozers and motor graders are also utilized for the grading operations.

The State Route 19 Expansion Project will prepare a busy Mississippi traffic corridor for the even heavier traffic levels expected in future years. As Howington reiterates, “Expanding from two to four lanes will improve every angle of travel for this stretch of SR 19, from safety to efficiency. That means safer driving conditions and quicker travel. We’re realigning some of the local roads to tie into the new four lane as well, making it a safer and more convenient travel experience.

“Overall, expanding this roadway will help to safely usher in the increasing daily traffic along SR 19, meaning less congestion, and will have a positive economic impact for the businesses and communities throughout the area.”

Photos courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Transportation

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