“Do the Right Thing” Getwell Road Widening Project

By: Fara Foster, Director of Communications & Community Engagement 

Every paving job has its challenges, but some more than others.  This two-mile section of Getwell Road, between Goodman Road and the Tennessee state line, was one of the latter mentioned.

The prime contractor was Ferrell Paving, an experienced contractor in business nearly as long as Lehman-Roberts Co.  The issues they dealt with began with the job’s design and construction plans.  The curb and gutter elevations were different on each side of the road, making it impossible to get a consistent 2% slope.  The structural thickness of asphalt was less than what showed on the plans for Old Getwell, resulting in many more areas needing to be repaired.  Lastly, further issues with the curb and gutter that was to have been left in place contributed to rideability problems.

When concerns about the job were shared with Terry Ketchum, he devised a plan around two options.  The first option was to lay a leveling course of asphalt, 6’ from the curb and stretching to 19’, making the total coverage area 25’ wide.  For the second option, he went back to a lesson learned from Julian Williamson nearly 30 years ago, who taught him to use a longer ski pole to make a bad ride smoother.  The longer pole would stretch over the knots further and lay more asphalt in the low spots.

Since most of our current employees would know nothing of this method, Terry mentioned it to Preston Bryson.  Preston then went over to our stock yard and found enough sections to make a 50’ Blaw-Knox ski pole.  With the aid of some brackets and the welding shop team, the ski pole was added to Dennis Harrod’s paver and set up on electronics in our shop.

Every one of the northern paving crews worked on this job, but it was Dennis’ crew who had the biggest challenge, preparing the road for final surface as well as laying the final lift of asphalt.  The Harrod crew laid the asphalt, paving in echelon with the Riles crew.  Echelon paving is to pave multiple lanes, side by side, with adjacent pavers slightly offset.  Rollers behind the echelon can pass directly over the longitudinal joint while both sides are hot, resulting in better compaction.  Further, the two crews laid the asphalt in 15’ wide sections, which eliminated one joint.

When the final profile ride was done, the numbers had dropped from 187 to 59.  While not the numbers our team hoped to achieve, they were such a marked improvement, they exceeded the expectation of everyone involved, including the prime contractor, MDOT, the engineers and the Southaven Board of Aldermen.  Both Terry and Dennis received letters from Keith Ferrell, stating in part, “We at Ferrell Paving, Inc. want to acknowledge your above and beyond efforts to solve a multitude of concerns and issues on this very difficult project.  Through your efforts, the project is one of which everyone is proud.”

Terry added to that, “This job is a personal WIN for me.  It showed that when you rely on past experiences, create a plan, and get everyone to pull in the same direction, this company can take a bad situation and turn it into a great looking job we can all be proud of.  I thank every person on these crews and the others I worked with on this job for the effort you gave and the quality of work.”