Highway 71 Bypassing Texarkana

By R.G. Pickard and Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

Austin Bridge & Road of Fort Worth, TX, is currently working on a $34.5-million project to construct the base structure of the future Highway 71 Bypass in Arkansas east of Texarkana. The project, begun in April 2007, is about 50 percent complete and includes the structural work and earthwork for a new roadway that will be named US 71.

The new roadway segment will be a loop for Highway 71 and will have a total of five structures, including four mainlane bridges. There will also be two crossings over I-30 and two crossings over state highway SH296, as well as a flyover bridge over the existing I-30 and Highway 71 roadways.

All structural work is being performed by the prime contractor, Austin Bridge & Road, with Cleve Batte Construction, Inc. of Fouke, AR, subcontracted for the dirt work.

To prepare for the new bypass, Cleve Batte crews must move approximately 2.5 million cubic yards of fill to level the terrain and build up overpass embankments for the Hwy. 71/I-30 interchange east of Texarkana. The irony of the project is that the area near this Hwy. 71/I-30 interchange now under construction is the former clay pit that supplied material for the original construction of Interstate 30 through this area. Now trapping water, more than two dozen pits dot this area, some of them up to 50 feet deep, according to Bobby Oller, project superintendent for Cleve Batte. Crews from Cleve Batte began work on the two-and-one-half year project in 2007. River sand and a sandy clay mixture are being trucked in primarily from two suppliers in Barner and Moreland to fill in the ponds.

Joe Garcia, project superintendent for Austin Bridge & Road, says that "The only difficulties we've had have been weather related. It's the amount of rain that has been a real killer on this job. The job is dependent on a large amount of earthwork, so the rain both on the job site and off-site at the fill sources has frequently made it difficult to bring in the materials we need."

Columns will provide roadway clearance for the freeways, and columns and caps for all of the elevated structures are being cast in place by Austin Bridge & Road with 6,000 cubic yards of concrete being supplied by Smith's Ready Mix of Texarkana to standard state specifications. The base of each column is a set of anywhere from four to 25 concrete friction pilings that are being driven into the sandy loam soil to an average depth of 30 feet. The friction pilings are then being encased with a poured concrete footing with the structural steel column tie-in exposed, and afterward the columns themselves are being cast over the footing. CMC Construction Services is supplying the required 4 million pounds of structural steel and half-million pounds of rebar that is being tied by J. L. Steel Reinforcing, LLC, of Fort Worth, TX.

The future roadway on the elevated structures will be built on a structural steel base made by Cadit and Clearspan permanent metal decking. The roadway base and surface are not a part of the current contract, although a single small section of asphalt work has been laid to provide a permanent detour at Clay Pit road.

The structural work and earthwork for the Highway 71 Bypass is expected to be completed in December 2009, and Randy Ort, director of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, says that, "Major work is under way with more in the development stage around Texarkana. Two major grading and structure jobs are under way as part of the Hwy. 71 relocation. We hope to award the base and surfacing contracts within the next year. This roadway will eventually become part of Interstate 49. There will be much work along the Hwy. 71 corridor from Texarkana to Fort Smith associated with I-49 in the years to come."


Cleve Batte Construction Inc. is the prime contractor for the subgrade, embankment and bridge structures contract adjoining the Austin Bridge & Road contract, tying in on the north side of I-30 interchange and continuing 4.435 miles to rejoin Hwy. 71 at the Arkansas-Texas state line in Miller County. The company began work on the $27,273,707 project in November 2006. Completion is scheduled for fall 2009. AHTD will award the base and surfacing as a separate contract for the four-lane divided highway.

The earthwork has not faced any borrow pits or challenges similar to the Project south of I-30, but there is a great deal of excavation and fill dirt required to complete the embankment — 102,174 cubic yards of uncl. excavation and 2,050,556 cubic yards of compacted embankment. Structures include four continuous prestressed concrete beam unit bridges, two bridge length box culverts and minor drainage structures.

A significant portion of the project lies within the Red River floodplain; therefore, the finished roadway must be constructed above the 50-year flood elevation of 276.01, according to Don Donaldson, district engineer with the Arkansas State Highway & Transportation Dept. This requires a fill height of up to 15 feet all the way across the Red River Bottoms.