Once 6 weeks behind, 70 work on track

kjahner@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2014 

— Though weather pushed the U.S. 70/White Oak highway project about six weeks behind schedule at one point, the contractor believes it will still complete the $4.7 million project roughly on time.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation granted Fred Smith Company a 12-day extention to complete the project, moving the final completion date to Christmas, with paving and marking completed in early December. The company applied for the leeway after being held up by a number of days with rain or ground too wet to grade the road.

“At one point they drifted out six weeks or so behind. They really got aggressive in dedicating personnel to the project to get it caught up,” town engineer Tony Chalk said. “They were given a brief time extension but I don’t think they’re going to need that.”

Rain days are built into the contract as inevitable and part of doing business. But Chalk said NCDOT does not often grant such extensions, suggesting the company’s case for extra time had some merit.

The town and state dually funded the project, which is being administered by the town. So far there have been $21,000 in overruns though that’s a small percentage of contingency money allocated.

The work will widen U.S. 70 from the I-40 interchange through the intersection of White Oak and Jones Sausage roads west to Morris Drive. The exit ramp of eastbound I-40 onto U.S. 70 will have a lane added, and a signal will allow one lane to flow across lanes of U.S. 70 to take a left onto White Oak Road, a maneuver difficult on the quarter-mile of road during heavy traffic. Additional left-turn lanes will also facilitate traffic heading to White Oak Crossing.

Work will also upgrade Jones Sausage Road near the intersection.

Traffic should continue to face no real disruption throughout the project, Chalk said. Work on the shoulders on both sides of U.S. 70 continues and will until about July. Then traffic will be diverted wide – creating slight differences in pattern but no lane reductions – so work from the median can begin.

One of the planned bond-funded projects in the works will further widen U.S. 70 to three lanes on each side from Morris Drive to New Rand Road. Lighting and landscaping will also be added. The town decided not to widen further west during bond planning because of the expense of modifying the Benson Road bridge, which currently restricts space to two lanes on each side.

The current project was deemed necessary to facilitate the expansion of the White Oak Crossing shopping complex to the north side of U.S. 70, where tens of millions of dollars are being spent to develop land, including a Cabela’s, 7-story Drury Inn hotel, and other retail and restaurant chains. Garner’s Economic Development Director Tony Beasley said Tuesday that developer Core Properties still isn’t ready to announce most of the future tenants of the development.

Privately contracted workers have been leveling the Cabela’s land to prepare the site in order to turn over control of the property to the outdoor chain and its contracted builders.

NCDOT does not allow paving in cold weather or from Dec. 15 to March 15, so completing that aspect of the project on time would be pivotal to having the road completed when developers hope. Otherwise they would have to get special permission from NCDOT and hope for good weather. Despite unpredictability of the weather in coming months, Chalk noted that the contractor has incentive to beat the deadline, since they would end up paying fees for not completing work on time.

“I know Fred Smith doesn’t want to get into that. They want to keep that date sliding back so they finish in the November timeframe,” Chalk said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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