The state signed off. The feds are up. And a clock is ticking.
The Town of Garner has received right of way certification from the state Department of Transportation for the U.S. 70 interchange project near White Oak Crossing. Now it needs federal approval before it can start a bidding process. It hopes that process and a roughly estimated one-year project can be completed before paving season ends in December of 2014.
“That’s our goal, to get it done before paving season closes. But it’s hard to tell before you get the contractor (schedule),” town planning director Brad Bass said. “We are almost at the goal line.”
The town has been working toward a $5 million-plus upgrade of the interchange between I-40, U.S. 70 and White Oak Road for more than a year. Various hitches in the plan have held up the project, which is expected to spur a massive expansion of the White Oak Shopping Center.
The N.C. DOT approved right of way last week, and the town submitted paperwork to the Federal Highway Administration, Bass said. When the agency grants authorization to build, the town will begin an 8- to 12-week bidding process, after which it hopes work can start quickly.
Bass said there’s no reason the federal government shouldn’t approve the project before the end of the federal fiscal year, which is crucial because $2.6 million in federal funding would go back into the pot and Garner would have to re-apply for it. That would also push bidding and construction back; Bass said town staff will do what it can to ensure the project doesn’t slip through the cracks.
The town would like to begin construction soon because in mid-December NCDOT cuts off paving work because of cold weather’s effect on the materials. Even with the short end of bid process estimates, construction wouldn’t start until November. Construction has been anticipated to take roughly a year.
Any surprise delays could push final paving to spring 2015. And they wouldn’t be the first.
Last fall, the Federal Highway Administration surprised Garner by requiring an air quality study. The agency had determined that the project, which widens U.S. 70 from I-40 to Morris Drive, added capacity to the roadway.
Garner had presumed it was merely an operational improvement largely focused on improving the intersection at U.S. 70 and White Oak; an operational improvement wouldn’t require the study.
Core Properties intends to develop the land around the intersection at White Oak and U.S. 70, pouring tens of millions of dollars of development into the lots it owns on the three undeveloped corners. But it doesn’t want to start work before it knows when road construction will be complete.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland