Local officials recently met with representatives of companies working on the Interstate 30 construction project in Benton.
The group met at the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues with the project. They discussed a variety of topics, including unforeseen issues, delays and staffing, as well as traffic and accident concerns.
Those in attendance included State Senator Kim Hammer, State Representatives Lanny Fite and Tony Furman, Benton Mayor Tom Farmer, Benton Area Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Gary James, along with representatives from the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Jacobs Engineering, Johnson Brothers and Garver.
Hammer, who led the meeting, told the group that this meeting was an opportunity for local lawmakers to ask questions they received from their constituents.
This project is part of ARDOT’s Connecting Arkansas program and spans approximately 5.4 miles of Interstate 30 from Interstate 70 to Sevier Street in Benton. The project will expand this area to six lanes with changes to the US 67 and US 70 interchanges.
It was noted during the meeting that approximately 85,000 vehicles travel this stretch daily and 78,000 vehicles cross the Saline River Bridge.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed in November 2022, but due to issues along the way, officials now say they expect the project to be completed in March 2023. Documents have been submitted requesting that the date completion of the contract for the project is moved.
For each day the project continues past the contract completion date, Johnson Brothers will be charged approximately $80,000, they said.
One of the biggest problems was the excavation, according to representatives from Johnson Brothers and Jacobs Engineering.
Johnson Brothers project manager Ben Holt explained the method the company planned to use to install drain pipes. Unfortunately, due to obstructions, they could not use this method.
Unforeseen problems with the terrain also posed a problem during the construction of a new bridge near exit 114.
The team had a design plan for this area, but after being unable to dig as planned, a new design had to be constructed.
Holt also mentioned that it would not have been possible for all of these issues to have been determined by ARDOT officials before construction began.
“The dirt here, especially in this area of Arkansas, is so inconsistent,” said Johnson Brothers regional manager Ken Smith. “There are a lot of variables in those six miles.”
Another topic of discussion was the pavement repairs that were carried out during the project. Holt noted that if Johnson Brothers crews need to replace a panel that has been installed, those repairs are done at no cost to that state.
Recently, Interstate 30 was closed for hours as crews worked to repair the roadway for a temporary bridge at exit 114. This work was expected to be completed overnight, but problems delayed repairs. The temperature had to reach a certain number before the asphalt could be laid, and then it had to cool to a certain temperature before cars could drive over it, Holt said.
Officials said the asphalt adhering to the deck units was also harder to remove than expected.
It was noted that crews are working diligently to complete the new bridge at this exit so that the temporary bridge can be removed. Officials hope the new bridge will be completed in April.
“There is no higher priority in our efforts than this bridge,” Holt said.
Traffic and accidents in this work area were also a concern for everyone at the meeting.
Holt explained that under their contract, they are required to have an on-call tow truck and a vehicle with various tools to assist motorists.
Holt also noted that his company has made a request to slow the speed limit in this area.
Arkansas Traffic Police reported that approximately 450 accidents have been reported in this area since the project began.