Georgia’s first interstate project under contract was a three-mile section of I-75 near Forsyth in Monroe County. Daniel Grading Co. of Atlanta moved about 10,000 cubic yards of dirt per day preparing the site for the primary contractor, W. L. Robinson Construction Co. of College Park. Daniel push-loaded five Cat DW21s with three D8 pushers.
In several areas of high-density earth they double-pushed a DW21 with two D8s. They also used a D8 tractor and pan.
Claussen-Lawrence Construction Co. of Augusta built eleven miles of interstate highway through an area of Cook County in south Georgia that was almost all swamp. The contractor had to bring in more than 1.2 million cubic yards of material for fill. They spread the material with Cat D8 and D7 tractors with rakes and No. 12 and No. 14 motor graders.
In south Georgia near Tifton, Hugh Steele Construction Co. moved more than half a million yards of dirt in the first five weeks on the job by applying an unusual technique. Steele attached Esco teeth to Caterpillar DW21 scraper blades, then used a pair of D8 tractor-pushers to double-push the scrapers through rugged soil. The increased speed of the double-push greatly accelerated the process. After seeing how well the teeth worked on half the scrapers, the contractor added them to the rest of the fleet.
Steele had contracts for two adjoining projects in 1958 in Tift and Turner counties for a total of about eighteen miles—about 3 million cubic yards of earth to move. The contractor used seven D8s, twelve DW21s, five D8 dozers, a D8 tractor pulling a plow, a D6 dozer, a Cat No. 977 Traxcavator, and two No. 12 motor graders. Eleven bridges and thirteen culverts were included in the contract. The culvert work was subcontracted to E. R. Snell, Inc.
At the north end of the Steele project, R. A. Bowen, Inc., of Macon was building a ten-mile section of interstate, beginning with excavation of about 1.5 million yards. Below about four feet they hit a layer of “gumbo,” a sticky clay that retains large amounts of water. The scrapers and pushers were able to work through without too much delay, and the project remained on schedule. Bowen used several Caterpillar No. 12 motor graders as well as Cat dozers and pushers.
Some of the interstate projects were smaller, including a mile-and-a-half section of I-75 near Cordele that was built by Coffee Construction Co. of Eastman. The contractor worked quickly, moving 202,000 yards of earth in the first three weeks with just six Cat scrapers. The entire project was filled with borrow from pits about a half-mile away. Cat D8 pushers, dozers, and tractors along with a No. 12 motor grader also helped complete the job.
Hugh Steele Construction Co. also built a seven-mile section of Interstate 75 in Monroe County near Forsyth. Heavy rain in early 1961 slowed the progress, but Steele made up for the lost time with a dry summer. E. R. Snell subcontracted the bridge and culvert work.
In north Georgia, Ledbetter-Johnson Co. of Rome faced entirely different challenges from contractors working in the piedmont and southern sections of the state. Building a section of Interstate 75 through the mountains, Ledbetter-Johnson made cuts averaging seventy-five feet and fills averaging sixty-five feet.
Where the interstate wound through the mountains north of Dalton, the contractor had to squeeze through a narrow mountain pass known as the Ringgold Gap. With the railroad and U.S. Highway 41 already in place at the base of the pass, there was not enough width remaining for the interstate. So Ledbetter-Johnson cut into the adjoining mountainside. The 325-foot vertical cut, which was half a mile long, is the deepest in Georgia and one of the deepest east of the Rocky Mountains.
The contractor used forty-five pieces of Caterpillar equipment to excavate 2 million yards of material, cutting four “benches” into the side of the mountain about fifty feet apart. The first bench was forty feet wide, and the next three were each twenty feet wide. About fifty feet from the top of the mountain, the cut revealed limestone with fossils of seashells and other marine life embedded.
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Building Georgia's Interstates 1956 - 1970