Hwy 231:
The Permanent Fix

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For the Highway 231 Hotline,
call 256-289-2089

Target to re-open U.S. 231 in late 2020

U.S. 231 bridges nearing completion!

Timelapse showing work from JULY 2020
HUNTSVILLE (Sept.16, 2020) — Bridge construction for the Alabama Department of Transportation’s emergency landslide repair on U.S. 231 in Morgan County is nearing completion, and full re-opening of the highway is anticipated within the next few weeks.

ALDOT’s contractor has finished pouring concrete for the decks, or surfaces, of both bridges. Additional concrete pours will be necessary to complete the bridge rails. Last week, contractor Brasfield & Gorrie also began constructing the asphalt approaches to the bridges, tying the structures into the existing roadway. Weather permitting, work on the $14.6 million project will continue around the clock, seven days a week, to reopen U.S. 231 as soon as possible.

The deadline for re-opening the highway is Dec. 2, but incentives up to nearly $2.5 million for early completion motivated Brasfield & Gorrie to accelerate the timeline.Because some additional work items are exempt from the deadline, motorists area advised that the area will remain a work zone with daily temporary lane closures. The twin bridges constructed on massive drilled shafts socketed in solid rock beneath the landslide will safely span the unstable area on Brindlee Mountain betweenLacey’s Spring and Morgan City. Each bridge is about 1,000 feet long and 44feet wide, accommodating two 12-foot lanes with 10- foot shoulders.

The closure of U.S. 231 followed severe damage caused by a substantial landslide triggered by heavy rainfall in February. Further investigation revealed a slide plane roughly 50 feet underground affecting about 1,000 feet of the bifurcated highway in each direction. During the first phase of repair, Reed Contracting removed about 220,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris from the slide area.
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HWy 231 Hotline: 256-289-2089

we're Working quickly to fix your commute

For your convenience, below are the official Hwy 231 detours

Northbound commercial traffic is detoured to AL-67 to Interstate 65.
Southbound commercial traffic is detoured to AL-36 to AL-67.
Northbound passenger traffic is detoured to Union Hill Road to AL-36.
Southbound passenger traffic is detoured to AL-36 to Union Hill Road.

STate of emergency declared by governor ivey

Governor Kay Ivey Declares State of Emergency to Expedite the Fix

In February of 2020, the Department of Transportation closed a portion of the north and southbound lanes on US Highway 231 near Laceys Spring, AL. Due to record rainfall, a large landslide and substantial cracks formed in the road which made it unsafe for traffic to utilize the roadway. Governor Kay Ivey has declared a State of Emergency that helps to fix this issue as soon as possible.

Mother Nature was responsible for creating this problem, but the Alabama Department of Transportation is committed to working towards a solution as quickly and safely as possible. This website is dedicated to providing you information about how to stay most informed on progress and detours in real time while this project is completed. To stay informed click "Get Updates," follow Hwy 231 Fix on social media, and sign up for our periodic emails by filling out the form below.
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HWy 231 Hotline: 256-289-2089

Highway 231 – The Permanent Fix

What will the new road look like?

To fix U.S. 231 permanently, the Alabama Department of Transportation plans to build twin bridges of more than 1,000 feet each to carry traffic over the area where a landslide damaged the roadway. Excavation work at the site has already removed more than 100,000 cubic yards of dirt, rocks and other debris to prepare for construction.

Check out the below computer-generated 3D animation to see what the new roadway will likely look like. To stay informed on progress, click "Get Updates," follow Hwy 231 Fix on social media, and sign up for our periodic emails.
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HWy 231 Hotline: 256-289-2089

News and Media Gallery

U.S. 231 bridges in Morgan County nearing completion on closed highway

AL.com

|

9/16/2020

U.S. 231 construction could be done in a few weeks

WAFF-48

|

9/16/2020

Brindlee Mountain’s bridges are almost finished, ALDOT says

WHNT-19

|

9/16/2020

U.>S. 231 in Morgan County expected to reopen soon

WAAY-31

|

9/16/2020

Progress continues on U.S. 231 bridges

WAFF-48

|

7/22/2020

Progress continues as U.S. 231 bridge girders to be set

The Arab Tribune

|

7/22/2020

Construction continues on U.S. 231 in Morgan County

WHNT-19

|

7/22/2020

U.S. 231 bridges progressing, should be open by Dec. 2 deadline

RocketCityNow.com

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7/1/2020

WATCH: Time-lapse of US 231 construction

WAFF NBC-48

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7/1/2020

ALDOT says U.S. 231 bridges progressing well

WHNT-19

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7/1/2020

U.S. 231 bridge construction begins

WAFF

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6/1/2020

Highway 231 bridge construction begins

WHNT

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6/1/2020

U.S. 231 reopening near Huntsville may occur even sooner

AL.com

|

5/7/2020

ALDOT one step closer to opening U.S. 231 by December in Lacey’s Spring

WHNT

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5/7/2020

U.S. 231 expected to finish ahead of schedule: December 2020

WAFF

|

5/7/2020

U.S. Highway 231 near Huntsville may open sooner than expected

AL.com

|

5/1/2020

Work continues on fixing Hwy 231 in Morgan County

WHNT 19

|

3/25/2020

No quick fix for closed US 231

Decatur Daily

|

3/11/2020

Plan, timeline to be released Thursday

The Arab Tribune

|

3/10/2020

Big excavation project underway for Hwy 231, ALDOT revealing plans this week

WHNT 19

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3/9/2020

ALDOT close to finalizing repair plan for US 231

Sand Mountain

|

3/6/2020

ALDOT: "Certainly a major slide" on shifting Hwy 231

WAAY 31

|

3/5/2020

ALDOT expects to have plan for fixing Highway 231 soon

WHNT 19  |  3/4/2020

hwy 231 hotline 256-289-2089

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:
Why is U.S. 231 closed?
A:

U.S. 231 between Hill Road and Huskey Mountain Road on Brindlee Mountain in Morgan County was closed in February when large cracks appeared in the pavement after heavy rainfall triggered movement of a landslide deep underground, about 50 feet below the road surface. Both the northbound and southbound roadways are closed, and all pavement has been removed from the roughly 1,000-foot areas impacted by the slide.

Q:
What is the plan to repair it?
A:

The repair is a two-phase process. The first phase, which is now complete, consisted of removing 220,000 cubic yards of loose rock and soil to significantly reduce the mass of the landslide and the depth to solid rock. The second phase is the construction of two 1,000-foot bridges crossing the slide area on the existing roadway alignments. These bridges will stand on thick piers anchored in the solid bedrock beneath the landslide.

Q:
Is the road going to be safe? How do we know it won’t happen again?
A:

ALDOT engineers and geotechnical consultants reviewed various options to find a solution that is not only safe, but permanent. Constructing bridges on drilled shafts will allow traffic to overpass the slide on structures that remain unaffected by future slide activity. Each pair of 9.5-foot-wide shafts will be further reinforced by a grade beam, or strut, providing resilience against lateral force.

Q:
How long is it going to take to fix?
A:

The Phase 1 contractor has completed the excavation of the slide area, removing 220,000 cubic yards of loose material over the course of two months. ALDOT awarded the bridge construction contract on May 8. The bridge contractor mobilized May 14 to perform preparatory work, with bridge work slated to begin June 1. ALDOT has set a calendar day target of Dec. 2, 2020, six months after work begins, for both bridges to be complete and the highway fully reopened to traffic. If the contractor completes the project on time, the closure of U.S. 231 will have lasted less than 10 months. ALDOT is offering the contractor a substantial monetary incentive for early completion to further reduce that time frame.

Q:
What are the best detour routes for me to take?
A:

The official detours are as follows:

  • Northbound commercial traffic is detoured to Alabama 67 to Interstate 65.
  • Southbound commercial traffic is detoured to Alabama 36 to Alabama 67.
  • Northbound passenger traffic is detoured to Union Hill Road to Alabama 36.
  • Southbound passenger traffic is detoured to Alabama 36 to Union Hill Road

Q:
What is this repair going to cost?
A:

Bridge construction (Phase 2) is anticipated to cost between $18.8 and $21.3 million total. InMay 2020, the Alabama Department of Transportation awarded Brasfield &Gorrie of Birmingham a $14.6 million contract to construct the bridges. Not included in the contract were $4.2 million in custom-fabricated bridge materials ALDOT ordered in advance. ALDOT also attached financial incentives to the contract for early completion that could total nearly $2.5 million.

Q:
Who is going to pay for it?
A:

ALDOT anticipates much of the repair cost being covered by federal aid, which exists for emergencies such as this. The Federal Highway Administration on March 11released $5 million in “quick release” aid. This early round of emergency funds provided a starting point for ALDOT to address damages, including those to U.S.231, caused by the wettest winter on record. We anticipate additional federal emergency funds will be made available as part of the ongoing federal assistance process.

Q:
What steps have been taken and will be taken to fast track this project?
A:

ALDOTis handling this project under emergency procedures and taking every available measure to reduce the time involved every step of the way — from design, to bidding, to construction.

Repair work began the day after the road was closed, when ALDOT contracted ReedContracting to begin removing pavement from the slide area to facilitate Investigation of the underlying issue.

After investigating the issue, ALDOT evaluated various proposed mitigation measures to find one that could be designed and constructed within the shortest timeframe. The bridge plan was chosen not only because it offers the highest level of safety, but also because it is an efficient and permanent fix.

ALDOT secured Reed’s services to continue with excavation of the slide, the first step of the solution, and that work is now complete. While Phase 1 excavation work was underway, ALDOT worked diligently to develop the Phase 2 bridge concept and design within a five-week window so that contractors would be prepared to submit bids for the project for a May 8 bid opening. Having received federal approval, ALDOT expedited bid review awarded the contract that same day to low-bidder Brasfield & Gorrie.  

ALDOT attached a nearly $2.5 million total incentive to the contract for early completion of the bridges and fully reopening the highway to traffic. ALDOT also took steps to procure in advance more than $4 million in custom-fabricated bridge materials, including girders, bearing pads and casings, to tighten the timeline by reducing the risk of delays for material fabrication during construction.

The steps taken have drastically reduced the anticipated timeline for bridge construction from the original estimate of one year to the current estimate of six months or less.

Q:
Who is performing the work and who is supervising?
A:

Phase1 (excavation) was performed by Reed Contracting with project management byALDOT. The contract for Phase 2 (bridge construction) was awarded to Brasfield& Gorrie of Birmingham. Engineering firm Volkert and Associates will provide construction engineering and inspection services.

Q:
How does the incentive/disincentive work?
A:

The contractor will be eligible to receive a payment of $50,000 for every day the project is complete prior to Dec. 2, up to a maximum of 30 days, and a payment of $33,000 for every day the project is complete prior to Nov. 2, up to a maximum of 30 days. If both bridges are complete and the highway is fully reopened to traffic by Oct. 3, 60 days prior to Dec. 2, the contractor stands to receive the total incentive of $2.49million. The additional cost of the incentives, though substantial, could prevent the extension of losses to motorists in time, fuel, and vehicle wear caused by detours and delays. The contract also includes disincentives for late completion — a deduction of $33,000 per day the project is not complete afterDec. 2, increasing to a deduction of $50,000 per day the project is not complete after Jan. 1, 2021.

Q:
Why not focus on construction of the northbound bridge first so as to allow reduced two-way traffic to use that bridge while the southbound bridge is constructed?
A:

Early discussions with industry professionals indicate that it will take contractors about the same length of time to complete one bridge as it will to construct both bridges simultaneously. The total closure of the highway will also speed construction by giving the contractor free rein over the construction zone, rather than working around traffic and maintaining traffic control.

Q:
Didn’t this same issue occur last year?
A:

More limited cracking occurred in February 2019. The damage to the roadway in both events was the result of the landslide being activated by heavy rainfall, but the damage in February 2020 was far more extensive, necessitating long-term closure of the highway. The 2019 crack, which primarily affected the outside southbound lane, was able to be temporarily repaired by filling it and repaving the road surface.

Q:
Why didn’t you fix it permanently the first time?
A:

Measures to address the landslide were not undertaken in 2019 because the problem had yet to be fully identified. More in-depth repairs to the damaged pavement were not made at that time because, without a way to fix the underlying issue, the possibility of further subterranean movement meant potential repeat damage to the road. Realizing that an underlying geotechnical issue was at work, ALDOT installed instruments to monitor the area and gain a better understanding of the extent, cause, and ways to potentially address the problem. While some additional minor repairs were necessary as the new pavement over the crack settled, the instruments installed on-site detected very little movement during the remainder of 2019. If ALDOT had more information about the problem in February 2019, the prescribed repair then would have been the same as it is today.

Q:
Why can’t you just rebuild the road?
A:

The real issue is not that the pavement cracked, but that both roadways sit atop a sizeable landslide. A simple rebuild would remain vulnerable unless the slide is somehow mitigated. Simply excavating to the depth of the slide, refilling it and reconstructing the road would provide no guarantee against reoccurrence.

Q:
Shouldn’t the road just be moved to a new location to make sure it’s safe?
A:

Moving the road to an entirely new location would be impractical and cost-prohibitive and would take years to complete. The planALDOT is pursuing will permanently address the slide area, making U.S. 231 safe for motorists, and do so within a relatively brief timeframe, considering the magnitude of the problem. ALDOT’s plan focuses on addressing the roughly 1,000feet of affected roadway, whereas rerouting the road would require new construction of possibly miles of roadway. That would involve time-consuming surveying and plotting of a new route, acquiring right of way, and obtaining environmental approvals, all before design and construction could even begin.

Q:
I heard the road might be moved slightly eastward?
A:

Engineers considered realigning the roadways through the slide area to place both in an area where the colluvial layer is shallower, meaning bedrock is nearer to the surface. This plan was not pursued for several reasons. Despite the shallower colluvium, the area of the proposed alignment (around the current site of the northbound roadway) was nevertheless heavily impacted by the recent slide activity and would remain susceptible to future movement. This approach would still have required construction of deep-foundation structures to mitigate the slide, and would have also involved blasting and/or drilling of a nearby rock bluff, potential impacts to residences in the area, and time-consuming construction of additional roadway and retaining walls (in addition to any walls constructed to retain the slide) to reconnect to the existing roadways.

Q:
Do I have to take the detour?
A:

For many, the most efficient routes using strictly state-maintained roads are the detour routes already established. However, depending on your base and destination, you may find another alternate route that is better suited to your needs. Please be aware that using local roads as shortcuts is discouraged and can increase your delays due to the high volume of traffic on the official detour routes, particularly at peak travel times. Commercial traffic is restricted from using non-state routes, including the passenger detour on Union Hill Road.ALDOT entered an agreement with Morgan County to allow use of Union Hill Road as part of the official passenger detour only.

Q:
What has been done to reduce delays on the detour? Can anything more be done?
A:

To improve traffic flow, ALDOT has made various improvements on the detour routes, including installation of temporary and semi-permanent signals, striping, reflectors, widening turn radii, and major adjustments to timing and functionality of permanent signals. ALDOT engineers and traffic engineering consultants continue to study traffic flow on the detour to identify issues and potential improvements. However, the two-lane roads composing the detour routes are carrying substantially higher traffic volume than normal, and their inherent capacity limitations cannot be completely overcome with temporary measures. Please expect delays and plan additional travel time. Motorists are also asked to remain mindful of speed limits and school zones along the detour routes. Law enforcement agencies are working to ensure the safety of motorists by monitoring detour routes for speeding and aggressive driving.

Q:
How can I find out what progress is being made on the repair work?
A:

Please sign up here to receive email updates, and be sure to check back at 231fix.com for more information as the project progresses.

Q:
Why can’t you just rebuild the road?
A:
The real issue is not that the pavement cracked, but that both roadways sit atop a sizeable landslide. A simple rebuild would remain vulnerable unless the slide is somehow mitigated. Simply excavating to the depth of the slide, refilling it and reconstructing the road would provide no guarantee against reoccurrence.
Q:
What is the plan to repair it?
A:
ALDOT plans to construct two 1,000-foot bridges crossing the slide area on the existing roadway alignments. These bridges will stand on thick piers anchored in the solid bedrock beneath the landslide. Contractors are already at work removing a large amount of rock and soil to significantly reduce the mass of the landslide.
Q:
Shouldn’t the road just be moved to a new location to make sure it’s safe?
A:
Moving the road to an entirely new location would be impractical and cost-prohibitive and would take years to complete. The plan ALDOT is pursuing will permanently address the slide area, making U.S. 231 safe for motorists, and do so within a relatively brief timeframe, considering the magnitude of the problem. ALDOT’s plan focuses on addressing the roughly 1,000 feet of affected roadway, whereas rerouting the road would require new construction of possibly miles of roadway. That would involve time-consuming surveying and plotting of a new route, acquiring right of way, and obtaining environmental approvals, all before design and construction could even begin.
Q:
Is the road going to be safe? How do we know it won’t happen again?
A:
ALDOT engineers and geotechnical consultants have reviewed various options to find a solution that is not only safe, but permanent. Constructing bridges on drilled shafts will allow traffic to overpass the slide on structures that remain unaffected by future slide activity.
Q:
I heard the road might be moved slightly eastward?
A:
Engineers considered realigning the roadways through the slide area to place both in an area where the colluvial layer is shallower, meaning bedrock is nearer to the surface. This plan was not pursued for several reasons. Despite the shallower colluvium, the area of the proposed alignment (around the current site of the northbound roadway) was nevertheless heavily impacted by the recent slide activity and would remain susceptible to future movement. This approach would still have required construction of deep-foundation structures to mitigate the slide, and would have also involved blasting and/or drilling of a nearby rock bluff, potential impacts to residences in the area, and time-consuming construction of additional roadway and retaining walls (in addition to any walls constructed to retain the slide) to reconnect to the existing roadways, which are at different elevations.
Q:
How long is it going to take to fix?
A:
Contractors are already excavating the slide area, which is anticipated to take about two months. ALDOT aims to open bids for the bridge construction in early May and issue notice to proceed to the winning contractor within about a week. The current estimate is that bridge construction will take about a year, though proposals from contractors as well as potential incentives/disincentives for early completion could reduce that timeframe.  
Q:
Why not focus on construction of the northbound bridge first and allow traffic to use that bridge while the southbound bridge is constructed?
A:
Early discussions with industry professionals indicate that it will take contractors about the same length of time to complete one bridge as it will to construct both bridges simultaneously. The total closure of the highway will also speed construction by giving the contractor free rein over the construction zone, rather than working around traffic and maintaining traffic control.
Q:
What are the best detour routes for me to take?
A:
Click here to view detours.
Q:
Didn’t this same issue occur last year?
A:
More limited cracking occurred in February 2019. The damage to the roadway in both events was the result of the landslide being activated by heavy rainfall, but the damage in February 2020 was far more extensive, necessitating long-term closure of the highway. The 2019 crack, which primarily affected the outside southbound lane, was able to be temporarily repaired by filling it and repaving the road surface.
Q:
What is this repair going to cost and who is going to pay for it?
A:
The estimated cost is about $18 million, but the actual cost won’t be known until bids are received from contractors. ALDOT anticipates much of the repair cost being covered by federal aid, which exists for emergencies such as this. The Federal Highway Administration on March 11 released $5 million in “quick release” aid. This early round of emergency funds is a starting point for ALDOT to address damages, including those to U.S. 231, caused by the wettest winter on record. We anticipate that additional federal emergency funds will be made available as part of the ongoing federal assistance process.
Q:
Why didn’t you fix it permanently the first time?
A:
Measures to address the landslide were not undertaken in 2019 because the problem had yet to be fully identified. More in-depth repairs to the damaged pavement were not made at that time because, without a way to fix the underlying issue, the possibility of further subterranean movement meant potential repeat damage to the road. Realizing that an underlying geotechnical issue was at work, ALDOT installed instruments to monitor the area and gain a better understanding of the extent, cause, and ways to potentially address the problem. While some additional minor repairs were necessary as the new pavement over the crack settled, the instruments installed on-site detected very little movement during the remainder of 2019. If ALDOT had more information about the problem in February 2019, the prescribed repair then would have been the same as it is today.
Q:
What steps have been taken and will be taken to fast track this project?
A:
ALDOT is handling this project under emergency procedures and taking every available measure to reduce the time involved every step of the way — from design, to bidding, to construction. Repair work began the day after the road was closed, when ALDOT contracted Reed Contracting to begin removing pavement from the slide area. Since then, ALDOT has secured Reed’s services to continue with excavation of the slide, the first step of the solution, while bridge design is taking place. ALDOT evaluated various proposals to mitigate the slide to find the one that could be designed and constructed within the shortest timeframe. The bridge plan was chosen not only because it offers the highest level of safety, but also because it is an efficient and permanent fix. ALDOT is seeking FHWA approval for expedited bidding to accelerate the process of receiving bids, awarding the project and notifying the winning contractor to proceed. ALDOT anticipates inclusion of a substantial incentive/disincentive in the contract to motivate the contractor to complete the project as early as possible.
Q:
How can I find out what progress is being made on the repair work?
A:
Please sign up here to receive email updates, and be sure to check back at 231fix.com for more information as the project progresses.  
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