12/13/11 — Bypass portion near state OK

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Bypass portion near state OK

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 13, 2011 1:46 PM

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A state Department of Transportation vehicle drives along the first section of the U.S. 70 Bypass where it crosses over Wayne Memorial Drive. DOT officials Monday morning inspected the road that is expected to open to traffic by the end of December, if not sooner.

The few minor issues discovered during Monday's final inspection of the first section of the new U.S. 70 Bypass do not amount to enough remaining work to delay the highway's anticipated opening by the end of the month, said Corey McLamb, Department of Transportation Division 4 resident engineer.

However, the state will not accept the project until those concerns are addressed, he said.

DOT officials Monday toured the bypass and the roads affected by the project including Wayne Memorial Drive, U.S. 117, Interstate 795, N.C. 111 and some side roads.

"I feel confident it will open by the end of the month -- hopefully sooner than later," McLamb said. "There were minor issues, nothing that will take a long time (to correct). It mostly involved subcontractors. (The number of issues) was probably less than what we normally see on projects. We have had staff out there every day working with the contractor."

The items include areas where more grass seeding is needed and guard rails that are too high, he said.

"For all intent and purpose it is ready," McLamb said. "If we had not found those few things we could have opened the road (Monday) afternoon."

All of the signs associated with the project have been installed, McLamb said. He added that he was not sure if or when additional signs would be added directing traffic exiting the bypass back toward the existing bypass.

McLamb said it is expected that most of the traffic making initial use of the bypass section will be local motorists who know their way around.

Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro began work Sept. 29, 2009, on the 3.3-mile, $65.3 million section from just west of Salem Church Road to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive.

The short list of four design/build teams for the two eastern sections of the bypass had been scheduled to submit technical proposals to the state this Thursday and the cost proposals by next Tuesday.

However, the technical proposal submittal has been pushed back to Jan. 23 followed by the cost proposals. The contract would be awarded shortly thereafter, McLamb said.

Normally, work begins about a year after a contract is awarded, meaning the project would not start until late 2012, McLamb said.

A number of factors contributed to the delay, including new salary figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, he said.

The two eastern sections were combined to help speed up the project and consist of a 3.3-mile Section BB from just east of Wayne Memorial to west of Creek Road (Secondary Road 1714) and the 7.5-mile Section C from west of Creek Road in Wayne County to east of Promise Land Road (Secondary Road 1323) in Lenoir County.

The combined section will be built using design/build that is different from the traditional approach of building a highway. Traditionally, all of the right of way is acquired before work starts.

In a design/build project, a contractor teams up with an engineering firm and is responsible for the entire project instead of stringing it out over several steps allowing work to proceed as right of way is acquired.

That portion of the project is expected to cost $106 million.

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

The final section, between Salem Church Road and N.C. 581, is scheduled to be awarded in June, keeping the $234 million project on track to be open to traffic by late 2015 or 2016.

The 21-mile bypass is part of a planned four-lane divided highway from Clayton to the coast.

As first conceived, the Goldsboro Bypass would not have been completed for almost another 30 years. However, in October of last year, the state Board of Transportation amended the State Transportation Improvement Plan to speed up the two eastern sections.

The state is using Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles bonds that allow the acceleration of federal funding to help finance projects sooner and avoid cost increases due to construction inflation. The General Assembly authorized the bonds, issued by the Office of the State Treasurer, in 2005.