Several range access roads and dirt trails on Fort Benning are closed as engineers upgrade and convert them to gravel tank trails.
Nearly 60 miles of tank trails are being upgraded in the installation’s northeast quadrant beginning near Malone 12 and stretching north about 7.5 miles, said Tom O’Buckley, project engineer with the Fort Benning office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District.
O’Buckley is overseeing three projects as part of the upgrade: repair of existing training area roads and creation of new roads, construction in the northern training area and adding training area infrastructure. The projects come with a price tag of more than $40 million.
Half of the new trails will be dedicated to 19K and 19D one station unit training. The other half will be part of the Northern Tank Maneuver Corridor. Road work began over the summer.
Closed roads include Sunset, Midwest, Wolverine and Bullseye roads and part of Red Arrow Road between Wood Road and 2nd Armored Division Road. Alternate routes are marked and include Buena Vista Road, Audernarde Trail, 10th Armored Division Road and Red Arrow Road.
The tank trail upgrade is necessary because the load of tanks is significantly higher than typical traffic loads. During rainy weather, the dirt trails did not have adequate runoff and the weight of heavy vehicles caused deep grooves, making it difficult for other vehicles to travel the trails, O’Buckley said. Additionally, the trails were too narrow to accommodate two tanks passing each other in opposite directions. The trails will be 30 feet wide once complete.
“When we’re done, it will look almost like asphalt and will be able to withstand the track vehicles going across without shredding it,” O’Buckley said.
Because asphalt can’t handle the wear and tear of tank travel, the tank trails are constructed with granular aggregate base — a material made up a of a variety of different sizes of gravel so that when it is compacted it leaves a smooth, durable surface.
Gravel is less costly to repair and maintain than asphalt and will last as long as concrete, O’Buckley said. There will also be about a dozen low-water crossings constructed in the OSUT training area for students to practice driving tanks through. The Northern Maneuver Corridor will have three low-water crossings.
To further prevent damage to the trails, approximately 70 concrete turn pads are being constructed along the trails.
“Otherwise the friction of a tank turning can tear up the road,” O’Buckley said.
Part of Buena Vista Road between Red Arrow Road and Lorraine Road will be repaved and the section between Midwest and Lorraine will be widened by 2 feet on each side.
Once the modifications are complete, the trails will reopen to traffic. The first portion is expected to reopen in September.