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Alabama DOT Partners with McInnis Construction to Replace the US 331 Bridge Over Patsaliga Creek

by: Larry Bernstein
Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Transportation
Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Transportation
A Terex crane lifts beams into place on the U.S. 331 bridge replacement over Patsaliga Creek near Luverne, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC)
A Terex crane lifts beams into place on the U.S. 331 bridge replacement over Patsaliga Creek near Luverne, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC)
Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC
Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC
Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC
Photo courtesy of Caleb Tyler, McInnis Construction, LLC
Located one hour south of Montgomery, Luverne, Alabama, bills itself as the friendliest city in the south. The small town, which has a population of approximately 2,800 is located one hour north of the border between Alabama and Florida. At 103 miles in length, U.S. 331 runs the entire route – from Montgomery to the Florida state line. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is in the midst of a bridge replacement project on U.S. 331 over Patsaliga Creek in Luverne.

Since the early 1900s, there has been a bridge in the area where the new bridge is being built. The new bridge in Luverne over Patsaliga will be the fourth edition.

The version being replaced was constructed in 1946 and was past its expected service period. That’s one of the deciding factors ALDOT uses to rank when a bridge should be replaced and led them to the project.

Patsaliga Creek runs through much of Crenshaw County and is a tributary of the Conecuh River, which it joins at Point A Reservoir. The creek and reservoir are popular for fishing and boating. Similarly, U.S. 331 draws a good deal of beach traffic.

Expanding the Bridge
The current bridge over Patsaliga Creek is two lanes. However, the replacement bridge will be four lanes. The decision to expand the width of the bridge was done for multiple reasons, including allowing ALDOT to have minimal traffic issues. The length of the new bridge is just a bit longer than the previous bridge at 775 feet.

The bridge is being built in two phases. “The contractor completed the first phase of the bridge, which is currently being used as a two-lane pattern,” says ALDOT Spokesperson Brantley Kirk. “By using the first phase portion in a temporary pattern we can remove the old bridge and construct the second phase of the bridge.” Kirk adds that a temporary bridge would have needed to be constructed or a detour set up to handle traffic during construction if the team decided to go with a two-lane bridge.

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Project Manager Cornelia Sides, with civil engineering company Volkert, says, “I think phasing this project and having a wider bridge with more capacity was a wise use of state funds, rather than a temporary bridge and roadway that would have to be removed. Creating a detour for this project was not ideal due to the length of the detour route.”  

In addition, according to Sides, the four-lane bridge will “save emergency response times, school and work travel times, and provide a structure that is ready for future roadway growth.”  

Construction Challenges
The project team, which is being led by McInnis Construction, has encountered a few challenges while working on the project.

The team came across a large concrete pad during the placement of the drill shafts on the south end of the bridge. “After doing some research we believe that to be a part of one of the old bridges that was in place sometime in the early 1900’s,” Kirk says. To handle this, the team performed a special drill shaft excavation.

Crenshaw County is notorious as a wet area as it averages 56 inches of rain per year, nearly 20 more than the rest of the country. The project area experienced minor flooding several times, which is typical in the area.

Another issue the team has dealt with is the proximity of the overhead power lines, which are low lying. To handle this, the city has shut down the section as needed. “We haven’t had any issues to date with the power lines due to the excellent communication between the city and the contractor,” Kirk says.

A Commitment to the Project
The project began in March 2020 and is scheduled to finish in December. The contractor has 350 working days to complete the project, though weather days do not count against the contract. At this point, the project is on schedule.
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“The key to staying on schedule,” Kirk says, “is having a contractor who is determined and committed to getting the project completed. That along with ALDOT having the right personnel onsite enabling the team to stay on top of issues that may arise is allowing us to get this project done in a timely manner.”

Financing for the project is being provided via the traditional 80/20 split between the federal government and the state via ALDOT funds. The $11 million project is currently on budget.

Kirk credits ALDOT consultants – Volkert Engineering – for playing an essential role in keeping the project on budget. “They have a done great job of staying on top of the project, and their knowledge and communication have proven to be a huge asset to the department.”

The team has been able to stay very close to what the designer had put in the plans. “Of course, as with any major construction projects there has been some things that have had to be field adjusted,” Kirk says. “Volkert’s knowledge and communication with ALDOT has made any such occasions easy to deal with.”

When the new bridge along U.S. 331 over Patsaliga Creek in Luverne is complete, drivers will have a more reliable commute. With the old bridge, a crash could shut down the route for hours. However, by doubling the amount of lanes, the new bridge will not only be able to handle more traffic but drivers can feel more confident that the route will be available.

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