Drivers, officials tackle road woes

Published 7:43 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

An outdated design appears to be the culprit behind the collapseof a well-traveled Lincoln County road that has caused someresidents in the Loyd Star area to complain.

County engineer Jeff Dungan, principal of Dungan Engineering,PA, said a 2008 project to upgrade a short portion ofJackson-Liberty Drive was planned in 1994 and based on a trafficsurvey taken in 1993, when the traffic volume was less than half oftoday’s total. The doubled traffic volume caused the road base ofthe 1.5-mile stretch from Highway 550 northward to rut, crack andbreak apart just weeks after completion last year, he said.

“The public is trying to go down the road, and what they see isa brand new road that looks like it wasn’t built properly,” Dungansaid.

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Based on the 1994 designs drawn up by former county engineerEngineering Associates, the Jackson-Liberty project was intended tosupport 500 vehicles per day, Dungan said. But a new studyconducted when the road’s failure became apparent found a dailytraffic count of 1,350 vehicles per day, including heavy trucks, hesaid.

The design was shelved for 14 years while the county fought aprolonged battle for right-of-way acquisition, and the inadequacyof the plans went unnoticed in 2008 when engineers, supervisors andthe Office of State Aid Road Construction approved the plan, Dungansaid. The job was awarded to Brookhaven’s Oddee Smith and Sons,Inc., for $515,800, paid for with 80 percent federal funding and 20percent State Aid.

Now, Dungan’s firm is putting together a program to repairJackson-Liberty Drive.

He said an independent engineer specializing in pavementengineering has inspected the road work and recommended a basereclamation project, which will involve milling the top 6 inches ofthe road and adding cement. The reclamation should strengthen theroad base and prepare it for another repaving project by OddeeSmith, he said.

Emergency federal funding for overruns is available for therepairs, and the mulligan will not cost Lincoln County directly,Dungan said.

“We’re trying to get this on the agenda to be approved by thefirst Monday in March and get work going by the first of April,” hesaid. “My goal is that by summer it’s back 100 percent.”

Until the repair is completed later this year, Jackson-Libertywill remain a painful piece of real estate for the partiesinvolved. Oddee Smith is patching the holes at its own expense andDistrict Five Supervisor Gary Walker is fielding phone calls fromconcerned constituents.

Walker said he has received dozens of complaints about the roadfrom residents there. He called the incident surroundingJackson-Liberty “just one of them freak deals,” and doesn’t blameanyone involved.

“I worked for Oddee Smith for 16 years, and I never saw anythinglike that happen before,” Walker said. “Sure I’m upset about it,but it’s just something that happens.”

At Dungan’s recommendation, Walker refused to sign off onJackson-Liberty as “completed,” leaving the job ongoing andallowing for repair work to begin without going through the processof programming a new project with State Aid.

Oddee Smith and Sons, Inc., chief J. Ronny Smith said he’s neverseen a road fall apart quite as quickly as Jackson-Liberty, butpointed out that every job has its own unique circumstances. Thecompany is collecting samples of the road material for analysis andwill perform more maintenance on the stretch Friday.

“It’s kind of like making a cake. You have to have so much ofthis, so much of that, to make it right,” Smith said. “Things likethis are never done fast enough for people.”