Rain puts the brakes on road construction

CASH, AR (KAIT) - The largest span of road construction in Craighead County is chugging along after a rainy summer pattern temporarily sidelined work crews.

Fifteen inches of rain have fallen along Arkansas Highway 226 since mid-May, submerging sections of the road for hours at a time.

District Construction Engineer Brad Smithee says it pushed portions of roadwork back for weeks.

When it rains every day or every two or three days, it just takes longer and longer. And then we had the cooler weather. Those cooler days didn't give us those drying conditions to recover from the rains that we had.

That rain fell right in the middle of summer--peak construction season.

It's tough to work in soil that's 60 to 70 percent saturated.

The ideal number is 10 to 20 percent.

"When the moisture content is too high and you don't have drying conditions, where you can lower it through processing by discing or aerating the soil, you just can't do much with the earthwork."

Much of the rain water from Jonesboro and Crowley's Ridge westward flow through this area.

Smithee says the geometry of the roadway is changing to relieve Big Creek during times of flooding.

"The longer bridges are being opened up to let the water through. What necessitated the longer bridges is we are raising the elevation of the roadway, so we don't anticipate the water getting back over it."

With a total cost of nearly 50 million dollars, it's one of the largest projects in northeast Arkansas.

An estimated 5,000 motorists cruised down AR-226 each day last year.

That number is expected to increase dramatically when the roadway becomes the connector to central Arkansas.

"It will be the main connector from Jonesboro to Highway 67, so we certainly expect those traffic loads to increase,as we complete these projects and make it a little better traveling corridor for the public."

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