12/01/09 — I-795 repair cost won't slow bypass work

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I-795 repair cost won't slow bypass work

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 1, 2009 1:46 PM

Progress on the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass will not be endangered by the state's decision to charge Wayne, Wilson and four other counties with the $12 million cost of repairing a crumbling Interstate 795.

State officials said earlier this week that counties in Division 4, including Wayne, would have to pay part of the cost of repairing I-795, which has had paving troubles since it opened.

But taking that money from Wayne's highway allocations will not delay work on the biggest highway project now under way in the county -- the construction of a new U.S. 70 bypass north of the existing one.

At the most, some projects may face some minor delays, but the slow economy already has been a factor in that, said Division 4 Engineer Ricky Greene Jr.

"The biggest question is, 'Does this mean to get the $12 million do we have to lose projects to pay for it? I would say that all the projects in our five-year works plan should stay in there. There is a slight chance that some could be delayed some across the six counties, but I have been seeing delays as we go through difficult economic times," Greene said, noting that $12 million is a small amount compared to the $150-$180 million that will be needed to complete all four sections of the new bypass.

In fact, work on the first segment of the bypass is slightly ahead of schedule, Greene said.

"Work will continue," he said. "To us it (the bypass) is very important, not just for Division 4, but for all of eastern North Carolina."

The $12 million sounds like a lot of money, but it will be spread across six counties -- Wayne, Wilson, Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash and Johnston, Greene said.

The state did not specify how long it would take to recoup the $12 million, he said.

The $12 million includes $2 million to remill and repave the outside lanes of the 18-mile section of I-795 between Goldsboro and Wilson.

The Wayne County portion of the project is under way, and work on the Wilson County portion is ready to start, Greene said.

The remaining $10 million will be used to pay for an additional 3.5 inches of asphalt along the entire stretch of roadway. That part of the project should start in the spring and be completed by mid-October.

"We are looking forward to getting the improvements to 795 done and not having to worry about it for another 15 to 20 years," Greene said. "If we had done it (extra asphalt) when we started the project we would have paid for it then. It is a case of paying for it now or paying for it later."

County Manager Lee Smith said he had been concerned when he first heard of the decision to take the money from the county's highway funds.

"I do feel better about it," he said after talking to Greene. "Being spread over six counties does take some of the sting out of it.

He agreed the economy already has been a factor in slowing some highway projects.

"In the worst case there might be some slight delays," Smith said. "I am more optimistic now. It doesn't seem like it will have a major impact."

Officials in the Division 4 office had warned the state that additional asphalt was needed before I-795 was built. However, the state did not heed those initial warnings.

Completed in December 2005, pavement damage began appearing by the summer of 2007. Originally called U.S. 117, it was added to the Interstate System as I-795 in October 2007.

The state spent $500,000 last fall in a "winterization" project on the outside lanes where the most severe cracking was found. Prior to that, a section of the southbound lanes just north of Goldsboro had been patched.

Contracts were awarded this past October to Barnhill Contracting Co. for slightly more than $6 million and S.T. Wooten Corp. for $5.9 million for the repair and additional asphalt. The total is $1.4 million less than the DOT's original estimate of $13.4 million.

A DOT study attributed the pavement problem to several factors, including asphalt pavement thickness and the use of an extremely dry pavement mix that contained a low amount of the asphalt cement that binds together the stone aggregate and other mineral material together.

The study recommended replacing three inches of pavement on the outside lane and then overlaying the entire roadway with three and a half inches of asphalt to increase the depth of asphalt from slightly more than five inches to over eight and a half inches.