10/20/10 — Bypass to be up, running by 2016

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Bypass to be up, running by 2016

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 20, 2010 1:46 PM

The U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass that local leaders had feared would be several decades in the making could instead be completed and carrying traffic by 2016.

And that means that the county and city do not have as much time as they had thought to extend utilities and to plan for development at the bypass' interchanges -- most of which fall inside the city's jurisdiction.

The highway was steered into the fast lane earlier this month when the N.C. Board of Transportation amended the State Transportation Improvement Plan to speed up the two sections of the bypass east of the work now being done between Wayne Memorial Drive and Interstate 795.

The amendments are the result of the state's new priority ranking for highway projects, said board member Gus Tulloss, who represents Division 4, which includes Wayne County.

Those two legs have been combined and are scheduled be let for bid as design/build projects at a cost of $106 million in the fall of 2011.

The 3.3-mile Section BB east of Wayne Memorial Drive to west of Creek Road (Secondary Road 1714) carries a $49 million price tag -- $10 million for right of way acquisition and $39 million for construction.

The 7.5-mile Section C west of Creek Road in Wayne County to east of Promise Land Road (Secondary Road 1323) in Lenoir County is expected to cost $57 million. Lenoir County is in Division 2.

The western-most Section A was already scheduled to be bid in the fall of 2012. The 5-mile stretch between N.C. 581 and Interstate 795 is expected to cost $73 million.

Work started Sept. 29, 2009, on the 4.2-mile, $65.3 million first leg of the project between Interstate 795 and Wayne Memorial Drive being constructed by Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro.

Corey McLamb, Division 4 resident engineer, said currently the work is going "pretty smoothly" and is ahead of schedule. It is about 67 percent complete and about 61 percent of the contract time has lapsed, he said.

It is scheduled to open to traffic Nov. 15, 2011

The bypass is part of a planned four-lane divided highway from Clayton to the coast. The Goldsboro Bypass could be completed by 2015-16 depending on weather and other factors at a cost of about $234 million.

"It is fantastic news," County Manager Lee Smith said. "One thing about Wayne County, it is a growing community and that is recognized by NCDOT."

Smith said that the city of Goldsboro, county and U.S. 70 Highway Commission had worked hard to convince the DOT to look at the community and traffic that is expected to double within the next 10-15 years on the highway.

He also praised Tulloss for his efforts on behalf of the project.

Along with a new bypass, the project will help "clean up" existing U.S. 70 with access management and other safety improvements, he said.

"You are going to see development change quickly," he said. "Goldsboro will have to work quickly with getting water and sewer to the interchanges. The utilities have to be expedited."

The county and city are looking at new retail and commercial development not in 20 years, but less than eight years, he said.

"We have got a lot of work to be done -- work on U.S. 13 and Wayne Memorial Drive (where there will be interchanges)," Smith said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us. Some businesses are worried about traffic leaving."

However, local traffic accounts for the majority of traffic on the heaviest traveled section of U.S. 70 between Wayne Memorial Drive and Spence Avenue, he said.

One benefit will be to divert the heavy-truck traffic that doesn't stop anyway, he said. That traffic shift will help make the highway safer, he said.

"I am glad. It proves that Wayne County is changing fast," he said.

"I am really excited," Tulloss said. "The exciting thing is that (highway sections) were very far out to 2019 and one was unfunded. It is a very, very important project. As the board member for Division 4 we are real excited to advance the projects that were so far out."

The bypass will have a tremendous economic impact on the area, as well as on safety for the traveling public, he said.

The project has been talked about for years and "no one was expecting this," he said.

Tulloss said the highway was advanced in priority because of the state's new priority ranking system for projects statewide.

"When it gets moved like this, somebody gives a good reason for it," he said.

The design/build approach is different from the traditional approach of building a highway, said Jerry Page, Division 4 project manager.

Traditionally all of the right of way is acquired before a blade of dirt is turned, he said.

"As we acquire right of way (with design/build), they can begin work," he said.

In a design/build project, a contractor will team up with an engineering firm and will be responsible for the entire project instead of stringing it out over several steps, he said.

Goldsboro and county leaders have argued for years that the bypass was far too critical to the county and eastern North Carolina to be left lingering unfinished until sometime after 2035.

County Commission Chair-man Jack Best has said even suggesting that the bypass would not be completed by 2035 was "ridiculous."

During an October 2009 meeting at the Global TransPark in Kinston State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco expressed frustration over the drawn-out timetable that didn't have the road done until after 2035.

Also, state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said at that same meeting the wanted to see the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass project expedited. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who was there as well, agreed with Crisco that a new four-laned U.S. 70 is critical to opening up all of eastern North Carolina to Interstates 795, 40 and 95.