02/01/08 — NCDOT: Trucks get some blame for I-795 cracks

View Archive

NCDOT: Trucks get some blame for I-795 cracks

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 1, 2008 1:47 PM

Only two years after its opening, small cracks and potholes have started to appear in a 2.5-mile stretch of I-795 just south of Pikeville.

The structural problems first began showing up in May 2007, and efforts were started almost immediately to try to figure out the cause.

So far, though, nothing has been determined.

"They've done quite a bit of testing, all of which has been inconclusive," said Steve Varnedo, chief operating engineer for the state Department of Transportation.

One aspect that they are fairly confident in, though, is the road itself -- 11 inches of crushed stone and slightly more than five inches of asphalt.

"The tests we've done seem to indicate to us that the quality of the asphalt is good," said DOT engineer and Division Four Supervisor Ricky Greene out of Wilson. "We haven't seen anything to suggest we didn't pack it good enough or roll it good enough."

Rather, Varnedo explained, the premature failure appears to be the type normally associated with overweight trucks -- except not exactly.

The cracks, Greene said, are only appearing on the southbound side, in the right-hand lane, and then only in the driver's side wheel track. Most load-associated failures, Varnedo explained, occur in both lanes.

"It's very unusual," Greene said. "It's kind of got us puzzled at this point. To me, it's a great-looking and great-riding road -- other than those blemishes on that 2.5-mile stretch."

Currently, the road, which connects U.S. 70 in Wayne County to I-95 in Wilson County, handles approximately 4,000 vehicles a day, about 10 percent of which are trucks.

And, while they will now be doing a more comprehensive traffic study, Varnedo said, that's about what the road was designed for in the late 1990s.

It was not, however, necessarily built to handle the amount of traffic it could see in the future as an interstate. The road, formally known as U.S. 117, received its interstate designation in fall 2007.

"That could change the traffic patterns over time," he said. "And that's really something we're taking a look at right now."

Solutions to the current problem and any possible proactive actions, though, will have to wait until those studies are complete.

"It's not posing a safety hazard, so we want to make sure we have a handle on it before we do anything," Varnedo said.