GARNER — The federal government approved the town’s road project near White Oak Crossing late last week, the final pre-bid hurdle cleared less than two weeks before a key deadline.
The construction authorization from the Federal Highway Administration means the town can initiate the bidding process on a roughly 12-month, $5.2 million project that will smooth out the transitions between I-40 East, U.S. 70 and White Oak Road.
The federal fiscal year ends Oct. 1; if the project didn’t have federal approval by then, the town would have had to re-apply for the $2.6 million in federal funds it secured.
“The significant step we were somewhat concerned about was getting the authorization to construct in a timely manner,” town planning director Brad Bass said. “We are immediately moving in with starting the bid process.”
Bids on the project from road construction firms must be submitted to the town by Oct. 25. The town will quickly review bids and pass the figures to North Carolina Department of Transportation for approval on the low bid, which would allow the town council to approve in early- to mid-November.
The town hopes construction can start in early December to beat the end of the 2013 paving season. NCDOT sets a Dec. 15 deadline to complete paving, which can’t be done in colder temperatures. It can be extended with an appeal and favorable weather, but there is no guarantee.
“It’s going to be close,” town engineer Frank Powell said.
The road work will pave the way for major development projects at White Oak Crossing, including new retail and restaurant space as well as a hotel. Businesses want the road work to be completed before opening.
“We’ll be expecting individual site plans for each of the tracts in the future; some will come earlier than others. End of the year, maybe beginning of next year,” Bass said.
Once the N.C. DOT approves the town’s bid process, the council would have to execute the contract at a public meeting. Town Council meetings are scheduled for the Nov. 4 and Nov. 19. The council could schedule a special meeting.
“Even then once you get the contracts back in and executed, you can’t say ‘contract starts today and tomorrow your time starts.’ You have to give them a little bit of time to mobilize,” Powell said.
Traffic should move fairly smoothly during the road work, Powell said.
“DOT is probably not going to allow any lane closures during the day,” Powell said.
A major reason to keep the lanes open? U.S. 70 will be an alternate route while I-40 along south Raleigh sees reduced lanes amid substantial road repairs scheduled to begin in January.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland