November 04, 2005

Ab-b-b-b-o-o-ou-u-u-t-t-t-t T-t-i-i-m-m-mememe

Bump-smoothing work starts on I-59

News staff writer

State transportation officials say it literally took an act of Congress for work to begin on the bumpy lanes of Interstate 59 for 16½ miles from Trussville to Alabama 23 in St. Clair County.

The resurfacing will include all interstate lanes. The first phase began last week at the Jefferson-St. Clair County line, and will extend for eight miles into St. Clair to Alabama 23. The second phase of the work will be from seven-tenths of a mile south of Chalkville Mountain Road, extending 8½ miles to the county line.

The work, which will cost $21 million, is scheduled to be completed next fall. [...]

Motorists have complained for years about the interstate's condition, especially the right eastbound lane beginning near Trussville. Drivers say they are forced to use the left eastbound lane to avoid the rough surface.

Drivers say the interstate is dangerous because drivers stay in the left lanes eastbound and then cut across right-lane traffic to take exits. [...]

It's not actually the roughness that's the problem--the road is smooth, but has something of a sinusoidal wave surface that can only be driven if you're going 40 or 90. Anything in between and your tires start bouncing out of phase and hammering the car like you've installed four jackhammers on the corners, and pretty soon you're about ready to go airborne.


It was undrivable when we had Moby, and the other day I made the mistake of moving over to the right lane in the Volvo and thought the thing was going to shake to pieces before I was able to get back over in the left lane. It's been a hazard for years, and it goes for miles before the surface goes back to something approaching level.

I know a bunch of happy taxpayers.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at November 4, 2005 10:07 AM

That sounds like a typical "newbie" mistake. It is not uncommon for contractors to hire inexperienced people to operate the "maintainor" (aka "road grader"). The "humpiness" is caused by unevenly packed road grade material: When the material is poured out of a dump truck, it forms a series of hills about three feet tall. The material at the bottom of the hills is, naturally, compressed more than the material at the top. If you just "knock the top off" to fill in the little valley, although it LOOKS nice and smooth, once you put the asphalt on top, and get some traffic and weather on it, the looser material compacts a little bit more, resulting in a slight dip.

An experienced maintainor operator KNOWS about this, and will grade all of the material off to the side, then move it back, so it is all evenly compacted, resulting in a nice, smooth, road.

It is as much the fault of the supervisor on duty when that stretch of road was laid, as it is the driver of the maintainor.

At least, that's how my grandfather explained it to me. He drove a maintainor for the State for 35 years.

Posted by: Eric at November 8, 2005 04:14 PM

I think your grandpop is exactly right. And the same thing happened on the stretch of I-20 from Leeds to Pell City that they had to replace. It was awful.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at November 8, 2005 04:23 PM