Spring collapse of Marion Highway 48 almost completely repaired

Marion County Highway 48 is almost completely repaired after a portion of it collapsed in March. From left, Marion County Road Engineer Chris Wilbanks and Assistant Engineer Lynn Mitchell.

HALEYVILLE      -  The portion of County Highway 48 that collapsed in March due to old pipes and a clogged drainage system has now been restored and is open for travel.
“There was a drainage issue with the culvert,” stated Marion County Road Engineer Chris Wilbanks. “There was a section that had been added onto either side (of the pipe) and that joint had come apart.”
The original drainage system had a 28-foot-wide arch pipe, according to Marion County road officials.
“The plans are from the 1950s,” added Assistant Road Engineer Lynn Mitchell.
Sometime through the years, a concrete extension was added to each end of the older pipe, Mitchell explained.
“When we dug it out, we found old grader blades. They took round pipes and stuck on each end of it, poured concrete around it and tried to hold it together,” Mitchell added.
Through the years, the extensions began to come apart because they became clogged with debris and/or the condition of the older pipe weakened, causing the pipe to back up to the point a natural spring shot out of the ground, road officials said.
“We think the pipe may have fallen in because  it cut it off where the water couldn’t get all the way out,” Mitchell continued. “It backed up and once the pressure built up, the water actually sprayed up from out of the side of the road. It was just shooting up out of the ground.”
The deteriorating pipe, separating from the concrete extensions, caused a section of the westbound lane that was 18 feet wide to collapse, creating a hole at least 30 feet deep, according to Marion County Commissioner Dale Holt.
Marion County road crews went to work to restore the road by removing the 36-inch metal outdated pipe with extensions and replacing it with a larger 42-inch plastic pipe so the concrete extensions will no longer be needed.
The new pipe will be better able to handle excessive water flow, county officials said.
“Obviously, we couldn’t go back to what was there because it was an arch pipe and a round pipe,” Wilbanks noted.
Wilbanks said crews laid a bed on which to place the new 42-inch pipe.
“There were five 20-foot sections. They had to piece it all together,” he said.
Once the new pipe was installed, crews then hauled in back-fill material and packed it around and over the pipe. Crews then had to place the fill-in to build the road back up at least 20 feet, officials added.
Crews also placed crusher run and watered it down in order to make it more compact, according to Wilbanks.
After the materials settle, crews will apply a hot-mix asphalt to the surface, county officials said.
 Until the hot-mix treatment is applied, the material is compact enough that the road has been reopened for travel, according to county road crews.
Wilbanks is proud the project is reaching its end.
“Continue to be patient with us just a little while longer until the end of the summer. That gives it time to settle and do what it is going to do.  Then we’ll be able to come back, put the asphalt on top and should be good to go,” Wilbanks concluded.
When the road bed was built back up, it was also widened in order to give motorists more flexibility in coming around the curve, officials indicated.
“If a vehicle gets off the road, it gives them more room to recover and get back on the road,” Wilbanks said.
The shoulders on each side of the restored road  have rip-rap in order to prevent erosion.
Currently, on the shoulder of the north-bound lane some trenches have occurred due to erosion or water run-off, but plans are to divert any water run-off around to the creek, instead of through the shoulder of the road, road crews stated.
“If we can give it a more gentle slope,” Wilbanks said.
County Highway 48 is a connector road between highways 129 and 241.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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