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Concrete Topping Adds Appeal to Highway Corridor

Three year beautification project on Highway 80 Median in Jackson, Miss.
Photos by Andy Wiley, SurfaceTechs Seamless Solutions

The U.S. Highway 80 Corridor in southwest Jackson, Miss., is one of those aging main drags that could use some aesthetic improvements. To the relief of many locals, much-needed changes are being made.

And then there was the seasonal challenge. The SurfaceTechs crew worked between the months of June and September of last year. Summer in the Deep South is unquestionably a less-than-ideal time of year

One such upgrade involves decorative concrete contractor SurfaceTechs Seamless Solutions of suburban Jackson. In the summer of 2010, SurfaceTechs topped a 70,000-square-foot stretch of the highway’s median with a putty- and brick-colored overlay. The topping adds eye appeal and a sense of unanticipated graciousness to the center of the eight-mile stretch of corridor, complementing and accenting the area’s other ongoing improvements. “It really dresses up that median. We’ve gotten very positive comments about it,” says Nina Holbrook, executive director of the Metrocenter Area Coalition, a driving force behind the revitalization of this rundown stretch of thoroughfare.

“We took and formed 8- and 10-foot lengths of 1-inch PVC pipe to replicate the pattern drawn by computer,” Fulton recalls.Holbrook had seen similar redesigns on medians elsewhere and thought such an approach would fit her group’s ambitious plans for this corridor.

Drivers road-hypnotized by the typical American highway don’t expect to see much more than endless expanses of bland concrete pavement. The windshield view was no different along this gritty commercial route — until that median got dressed up.

The project is part of an ongoing three-year beautification push that includes landscaping, sidewalks and other improvements. The finished roadway will offer an attractive complement to downtown Jackson and the campus of Jackson State University.

Making an “S”

Bill McDade of local landscape architectural firm Weatherfort/McDade Ltd. designed the median’s attention-grabbing “S” pattern, used in addition to a more angular straight-edged design. It was up to Bradley Fulton, director of operations for SurfaceTechs, to make the “S” design reality. No small challenge, the project encompassed some 8 miles of surface, with widths ranging from 2 feet to 20 feet.

two tone stripes on a highway median in MississippiThe “S” art was computer-generated, “but we had to physically lay it out,” says Fulton. That was a low-tech and tedious process completed in increments of 60 to 80 linear feet at a time.

“We took and formed 8- and 10-foot lengths of 1-inch PVC pipe to replicate the pattern drawn by computer,” Fulton recalls. “We taped the PVC down, traced the pattern, pulled up the PVC and masked off the surface for spraying.”

The decorative application (most of it over previously existing concrete) consisted of two squeegee coats of Elite Crete Systems Thin-Finish, an overlay integrally colored with Brick and Sangria Portion Control from Elite Crete. Then the integrally colored Thin-Finish was sprayed through a hopper gun over both patterns. The project was finally sealed with two coats of Elite Crete CSS Emulsion clear-coat concrete sealer.

Two toned read and beige color hardener used on median of road.A slow pace in hot weather

The work was pretty slow-going. Fulton’s crew of about 15 could only work between morning and evening rush hours and on weekends.

“The guys would sometimes be working 3 feet from car fenders,” says Fulton.

At other times, lanes had to be closed down and traffic rerouted.

And then there was the seasonal challenge. The SurfaceTechs crew worked between the months of June and September of last year. Summer in the Deep South is unquestionably a less-than-ideal time of year for a project of this nature.

“Yeah, it was pretty hot out there,” Fulton says with a chuckle. “It was 100 degrees or hotter most every day. And then there were long stretches where it rained daily. We’d have to cover up our work, pack up and get out of there.”

His crew was provided with plenty of water, Gatorade and cold towels, but, Fulton says, “We did have a few guys who just said, ‘This isn’t for me.’”

The craftspeople who stuck with it achieved something that is much appreciated by their customers. “It helps improve the whole area,” says Holbrook.

Project at a Glance

Client: City of Jackson, Miss.

Decorative Concrete Contractor: SurfaceTechs Seamless Solutions, Ridgeland, Miss. | www.surfacetechs.com

General Contractor: Rotolo Consultants Inc., Slidell, La. | www.rotoloconsultants.com

Project Manager: Bradley Fulton

Landscape Architect: Weatherford/McDade Ltd., Jackson, Miss.

Scope of project: Resurface 70,000 square feet of median along an eight-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 80 in Jackson, Miss.

Duration of project: Three months

Products used: Materials from Elite Crete Systems (Thin-Finish concrete overlay, Portion Control Colorant in Brick and Sangria, CSS Emusion Concrete Sealer)

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