Gov’t Fleet Road close to completion

Published 12:10 am Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — With the bridge construcution complete, all that is left to do is the paving of the road, which crews hope will be finished Sept. 2.

NATCHEZ — After more than seven years in planning and construction, the Government Fleet Road Extension project into the Natchez-Adams County Port is scheduled to reach completion Sept. 2.

Construction on the $3.6 million project, which will cut off 7 miles round trip for traffic entering the port from the west, began in July 2011.

In addition to having to construct a curved bridge on an 8-percent grade, construction included having to slice away portions of the bluff, giving the area the appearance of having giant steps.

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Now, the primary portion of the construction left on the project is adding a gravel base and laying down asphalt on the roadway itself, County Engineer Jim Marlow said.

Commercial traffic entering and leaving Jones Lumber Company and a few residences on Magnolia Bluff Road should be the only traffic that is disrupted during the paving process, Marlow said.

The bridge still needs to have its guardrails installed, Marlow said, but that can’t happen until the first coat of asphalt is laid.

The construction on the project was originally slated for completion in July, but weather delays and change orders slowed the project.

“There has been the unusual amount of rain falling, especially in the month of July,” Marlow said. “(The contractors) have got other time extensions because additional pay items have been added to the project, namely erosion control.”

Erosion control includes putting rock bases in some areas and hydroseeding of grass, which should be completed next week, Marlow said.

The flooding in 2011 also delayed the work, Marlow said, because water filled in the basin through which the road runs.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said traffic coming into or going out of the port from the south will still use River Terminal Road, but the new entrance into the port will provide easier access for those coming from the Shreveport, Monroe or Houston markets, and the ease of access into and out of the port can be marketed.

“The benefit is it is direct access,” Russ said. “It knocks off about seven miles both in and out, roughly 3.5 miles in and out per truck on a western route.

“From a safety standpoint. it is a more direct route and less curvy road, and there is also less pedestrian traffic.”

Contractor W.E. Blain has the contract for the road construction.