Construction surges ahead on Hwy 67, Hwy 226

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Mild winters and hot dry Springs and Summers are not great for farmers; but for road construction it's quite the opposite.

From the 63 overpass at Hoxie you can see the construction on 67 North, coming closer every day.

Brad Smithee the AHTD District 10 Construction Engineer and myself drove around the dirt work at the end of the pavement by Hoxie. Massive scoops dragged by huge John Deere and Challenger tractors were being used to dig sand out of a nearby pit and dump it on the new roadbed.

Smithee says this portion was the last part before the hook up at the overpass is complete.

"The project we're on today is between Highway 20 and 63 at Hoxie." Smithee said. "This project is approximately 10 miles long and we are approaching the end of the earthwork portion of this project."

Currently 67 is paved about a mile past the 226 overpass at Cash. Just recently a bid has been let to begin the paving between 226 and Highway 20.

Highway 226 is being expanded to a 4-lane to eventually tie with 49 by Gibson Switch. Crews from Dumey Construction had tractors with scoops working today to clear a barrow pit and begin the preliminary earthwork where the overpass will go over the tracks and the existing county highway.

Smithee said it's off to a good start. "That project was let in December of last year and has begun with the good weather that we've had and I think our estimated completion date for it is late 2013."

Smithee said that normally highway construction doesn't really get going until July when the last of the deep moisture is gone.

"This time of year is fairly rare for us when it's dry and at allows us to begin and do a lot more work throughout the summer." Smithee said. "Unfortunately the lack of rain is a good thing in the construction business for projects like this."

Joe Christian will lose about 2 farm acres to the construction of 226. Originally his farm just outside Cash was slated to have the highway bisect his fields but then it was decided to put it all on the North side of the current highway.

One of Christians main concerns is getting the road done so they can move farm equipment safely up and down the road. Christian says the bridge construction is taking too long.

Christian, "They don't work Fridays, I see them gone a lot of time I felt they should be working. Nice good weather you don't see them out here. I don't know how it works but I'm disappointed."

Smithee says while that is an understandable concern, each contractor has deadlines they have to meet, so it's up to the contractor when crews work.

Smithee, "A lot of those companies will schedule to start early in the mornings and they'll work 4-10 hour days or they may work 4-12 hour days but it's absolutely up to them to schedule that."

Smithee says that even though the dirt work on 67 is close to completion, they still have to build a large overpass just outside Hoxie and get out paving contracts on the 67 projects.

Smithee, "In reality, late 2013 up into 2014 would be a realistic expectation for the paving of these projects to be complete."

Also he said, even though the paving might get done early, the road is a turn-key project so it won't open until all the bridges and other work is completed.