HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A portion of Highway 231 near Laceys Spring is set to reopen for the first time since mid-February.
State leaders will be on hand for an official ribbon cutting to welcome drivers to two new bridges that span the distance of road that began to crack earlier this year.
This reopening is way ahead of schedule, with the earliest projections saying construction would take a year, then saying things would be open in December and now to the official reopening on September 28.
The road has gone through a big transformation in the last seven months, leaving a lot of drivers frustrated along the way.
The soon-to-be-reopend portion of Highway 231 first became news on the morning of Febraury 13, when the road had to be closed because of a large crack that became more concerning. ALDOT officials even called the road “dangerously impassable.”
About a month later, we got some answers. ALDOT officials explained what had happened and when they thought it would be fixed at a crowded community meeting on March 12.
The issue that started all of this was significant rainfall that had weakened the soil beneath the pavement and made it prone to slides. In fact, the slide on the mountain was about 50 feet, so crews had to remove 25 feet of the “bad” soil to make way for what would replace the road.
The road replacement would be two 1,000 foot bridges that would connect right back with the roadway that didn’t have to be destroyed.
For the next few months, a contractor excavated the portion of road where the bridges would go. On May 1, we got news the bridges could be open as early as late 2020.
On May 8, a contractor was selected to build the bridges and we had a new projected end date for the construction, December 2.
After five bids were submitted, Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham was awarded a $14.6 million contract to construct the twin bridges. Each bridge would be about 1,000 feet long and 44 feet wide, accommodating two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders. Each would be constructed atop 16 9.5-foot-wide drilled shafts socketed in solid rock.
On top of an already expensive contract, ALDOT attached a nearly $2.5 million total incentive for early completion of the project.
Phase 1 of the project finished up in mid-May. All together, crews excavated about 220,000 cubic yards of loose rock and soil from the landslide on Brindlee Mountain. This is the equivalent of more than 65 Olympic-sized swimming pools of material.
After all this excavation the next step was construction, on June 1 crews started drilling 15 feet down into solid rock, making sure these new bridges would have a solid foundation.
Crews continued working day and night throughout the summer on the new bridges.
By late July, crews with the contractor Brasfield and Gorrie had begun placing the girders that would eventually support the bridge. Once all the girders were placed, the construction on the actual decks of the bridge would start.
While this construction was happening, drivers were using detours along Highway 36 and Union Hill Road. Those detours cost drivers a lot of time on their commute and gave those roads a lot more traffic than they were used to.
Those problems just became worse in August when school started back up, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputies stepped up patrols to make sure kids could get to and from school safely.
The best news of all came just a few weeks ago, when an ALDOT spokesperson said the work has gone much quicker than anticipated and now the two new bridges should be open in a few weeks.
Now, here we are at the day thousands of people have been waiting for, a special ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for September 28 at 2:30 p.m. WAFF 48 will have continuing coverage of it throughout the day and into Tuesday morning with live looks at the new bridge.