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— We salute the employees of our area’s state Department Transportation district operation who have been recognized for their extraordinarily quick restoration of a highway that looked like it had been obliterated by a bomb.

As recently reported in the Camden News, more than 50 employees of the highway department’s District Seven received the Director’s Diamond Award for their diligence in quickly restoring U.S. 278 in Ouachita County. The Diamond Award, according to a news release, recognizes employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose actions exemplify one or more of the department’s core values of safety, public service, teamwork, quality, integrity, and efficiency.

The outstanding work that earned the honor for the employees was more than a case of a repairing a road that had fallen into serious disrepair. Challenging the District Seven crew was a section of a well-traveled highway that had basically been destroyed.

The destruction occurred early morning on March 27 when a tractor-trailer hauling ammonium nitrate exploded after its brakes caught fire. The blast created a 15-feet-deep by 80-feet- diameter crater in the highway. Tragically, the driver, 63-year-old Randall McDougal of Union County, was killed in the explosion.

Highway crew members were able to begin work at the site about four hours after the explosion once emergency response and investigative teams had completed their work. They immediately set about to remove the damaged asphalt, contaminated soil and debris.

To replace and rebuild the section of roadway, the crew hauled, spread and compacted materials. They compacted several applications of hot mix asphalt and rebuilt the slopes along the road and the ditches. It was a time-consuming task and a challenge to get the roadway back open for the many motorists who need to travel the highway every day.

“They worked every daylight hour and opened the roadway to traffic in less than 48 hours after being given access to the site,” ARDOT director Scott Bennett said in a news release. “The employees … made a significant difference among their peers, supervisors, and the traveling public. I am proud of what they accomplished.”

The fact that we were able to travel a roadway that had been destroyed just 48 hours earlier is, in our opinion, almost unbelievable. We thank the district crew for the tremendous accomplishment.

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