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I-95 Widening in North Carolina

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Starting this fall, a $708.9 million project will begin expanding I-95 from 4 to 8 lanes between Exit 56 (US-301 / I-95 Business) and Exit 81 (I-40). This segment of I-95 is one of the oldest in the state and would be reconstructed to modern standards. Six interchanges will be fully reconstructed, bridges will be replaced, and frontage roads would be realigned.

The project will not include tolls on I-95 as previously proposed.

While most components of the project have not begun yet, the reconstruction of Exit 71 was started in February, and will be complete next year. It involves realigning the ramps, frontage roads, and replacing the overpass to accommodate 8 lanes underneath. 5 other interchanges along the corridor will see similar treatment over the next few years.

Project website:
Project maps (Exit 56 to Exit 71):
Project maps (Exit 71 to Exit 81):

The current speed limit through the area is posted at 65 mph; it is unclear if NCDOT plans on increasing it to 70 mph though may well do so upon completion of the improvements. Similar projects, such as I-85 widening between China Grove and Lexington completed in 2014, and I-85 reconstruction between Henderson and Virginia completed in 2018 enabled their speed limits to be increased from 65 mph to 70 mph. The design speed of the project is 70 mph, which would indicate 65 mph, though NCDOT has posted 70 mph speed limits on projects with 70 mph design speeds such as the US-17 Pollocksville Bypass and NC-11 Greenville Southwest Bypass completed in 2019. With a modern 8 lane interstate highway in place, it would make logical sense to allow 70 mph.

S.T. Wooten Off to Good Start on I-95 Widening From Raleigh to Fayetteville

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The Feb. 9 closure of the Long Branch Road bridge (Exit 71) over Interstate 95, north of Fayetteville (Harnett County), marked the first stage of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) $404 million project to widen 18 miles of the interstate under a design-build contract awarded to S.T. Wooten Corporation last July.

The existing two-lane bridge will be replaced with a taller and longer bridge that will have three lanes and wider paved shoulders. In addition, all four ramps will be realigned and elevated to match the higher bridge, and the ramps will be extended for drivers merging onto the highway. Service roads now connected to the ramps will be separated and tie directly to Long Branch Road to improve safety.

"The changes will enhance the safety of the interchange and create room to double the highway's travel lanes to eight," said Andrew Barksdale, NCDOT public relations officer. "The new bridge and upgraded interchange will open in about one year. Initially after the bridge closes, I-95 drivers will continue to be allowed to take the Exit 71 and turn right, but not left. Eventually, all of the ramps will be closed, requiring people to detour to Exit 70 instead.

"After a rebuilt Exit 71 is reopened, the Bud Hawkins Road bridge [Exit 70] will close for the same kind of reconstruction for about one year," Barksdale added. "In preparation of closing the Exit 71 bridge, crews in January added temporary pavement and concrete barriers to maintain four lanes on I-95 for the duration of construction."

There will be occasional overnight lane closures in the vicinity of exits 70 and 71 for the widening project over the next two years. The S.T. Wooten project covers I-95 between mile marker 56 in Eastover and Exit 71 in Dunn. The design and right-of-way acquisition for the rest of the route will be completed this year, allowing more construction to proceed by this fall. The entire project is expected to be completed by summer 2024.

NCDOT plans to award a construction contract in July to upgrade the interchanges and similarly widen I-95 from Exit 72 northward to Exit 81 at Interstate 40 in Johnston County, south of Raleigh. Construction on this portion is expected to begin this fall.

The estimated total cost to widen all 25 miles, from mile markers 56 to 81, is almost $710 million, and the overall widening is expected to be completed during 2024. Construction is estimated to cost $612,100,000; property acquisition $94,156,000; and utility relocation $2,700,000. The initiative is being partially funded with $147 million in federal funds from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program. Most of the project cost is coming from the NCDOT's highway trust fund.

The project will widen about 25 miles of I-95 to eight lanes between I-95 Business/U.S. 301 (Exit 56) in Cumberland County and I-40 (Exit 81) in Johnston County, including all of Harnett County. The work includes rebuilding at least six interchanges with new overpasses, loops and ramps. Service roads will be realigned or shifted to meet modern design standards. These interchanges include Pope Road (Exit 72), U.S. 421 (East Cumberland Street) (Exit 73) in Harnett County, Jonesboro Road (Exit 75) and Hodges Chapel Road (Exit 77). The bridge work covers the replacement of the overpass bridges between Baywood Road in Cumberland County and N.C. 50 (Exit 79), Black River in Cumberland County and U.S. 421 in Harnett County. A new overpass bridge also will be built at South Market Street and Cub Road in Benson.

The service roads are being realigned to allow for I-95 widening and to meet current design standards; roundabouts are being added at some interchanges to minimize impacts to nearby properties; and bicycle and/or pedestrian accommodations will be added to some overpass bridges.

"This is a massive improvement project, and one that is sorely needed," stated Grady Hunt, who represents the Fayetteville area for the N.C. Board of Transportation. "Modernizing the East Coast's main highway is an important, long-term goal for our state. This will be a significant investment in North Carolina."

This portion of I-95 has a high traffic volume, reaching nearly 60,000 vehicles a day in southern Johnston County.

"An important part of the local, regional, state and national transportation systems, I-95 serves commerce, residential populations, the tourism sector, the military, school systems and medical centers, among other institutions," Barksdale said. "The interstate is also part of North Carolina's hurricane evacuation route system. According to the I-95 Planning and Finance Study Environmental Assessment (2012), congestion will increase, and drivers will experience traffic jams if the highway is not widened. The project will ease congestion and accommodate future growth in traffic volumes, ensuring that I-95 remains a vital part of North Carolina's transportation system."

This project also will bring this stretch of I-95 up to modern standards and requirements, ease traffic for trucks coming through the area and create safer conditions for all road users. This stretch of I-95, the first portion of the interstate in North Carolina, was built in the late 1950s as a four-lane, median-divided highway. NCDOT began planning for the widening in Fall 2017 and public hearings were held in October 2018.

Commenting on the existing road structure, Barksdale noted: "We are keeping up the road maintenance, and we have resurfaced this portion of I-95 just a few years ago. However, the four travel lanes [combined in both directions] is woefully inadequate for the traffic using it, and the bridges do not meet our current design standards for highways. They are too low and sometimes get struck by oversized vehicles. Because of the traffic congestion, we have high crash rates along this portion of I-95. The widening and overall upgrade of the interstate will lessen the risk of crashes, ease congestion and improve traffic flow."

The biggest design and engineering challenge is the traffic.

"There is a lot of it — 60,000 vehicles a day, and it comes at all times of the day and night," Barksdale said. "We can't reduce lanes in the daytime, as that would cause major backups. This is why we will use the Smart Zone along this 15-mile stretch. For any road we build, we like for it to last eight to 10 years before it needs to be resurfaced. With heavy-volume roads, like an interstate, we use a certain kind of asphalt mix and thickness to hold up eight to 10 years. As for bridges, typically, they can go 40 years before they need any kind of major maintenance or preservation work; and of course, they will last a lot longer than 40 years before we have to replace them.

"This is a design-build contract, so the contractor is finishing the design and will oversee the construction. Typically, these phases (design and construction) are separated, increasing chances of incompatibilities and cost overruns. But a design-build contract ensures engineering and construction teams are aligned on day one, resulting in savings, design innovation and faster delivery."

S.T. Wooten started the project in late 2019, with the first phase wrapping up around springtime and the other phase following. After that, S.T. Wooten crews will transition to construction on the remaining 15 miles, which will be broken up into four phases. Traffic will be pushed to middle lanes in the early phases of the project and then to outside lanes during the final phases of the project.

Traffic is expected to be one of the biggest challenges for workers. It's a little bit different than some other road paving projects because traffic is consistent throughout the day and not just during times where lots of people are commuting to work.

"There will be a lot of large trucks coming through and they can create a good amount of noise and wind in the work zone, so our crews will need to be on extra-high alert during construction," said Ronald Brock, S.T. Wooten's project manager. "And as with any construction project, we'll want to have our resources in place and ready each day so we can get in and out of the way quickly — keep things opened up as much as possible for drivers. Strategically, staying on schedule will take close communication between project managers and crews.

"Eighteen miles is a lot to cover, and four and half years will go by quickly," Brock added. "The ability to troubleshoot if challenges like storms or bad weather pop up will help us stay on track. The project itself will pick up this summer once we get started with the second stretch and it will remain pretty steady throughout the duration of construction. While paving takes place during warmer months, we'll be planning and working on some of the other activities as things progress throughout the year."

Regarding traffic control, Brock noted that this project is taking place inside a designated Smart Work Zone. Sensors and message boards have been placed throughout the area to detect potential travel delays and alert drives of alternate routes if needed. Details on traffic issues and conditions also are routed to the NCDOT's Statewide Transportation Operations Center where it can be shared with the public.

The Smart Work Zone (SMZ) is only around exits 70 and 71, but will be fully implemented by mid-summer when the rest of this section of I-95 is under construction. The SMZ includes digital speed limit signs; additional cameras to monitor traffic; message signs warning motorists as they approach the work zone whether or not traffic is moving normally or stopped. The SMZ also will include alternate I-95 routes, such as U.S. 301, which runs parallel to the interstate, for people to use if there is a big crash that closes I-95 for several hours.

Work on the Long Branch Road bridge is proceeding well. According to Brock, the old bridge has been taken down, and one of the end bents and the center bent has been excavated.

"The center bent is now ready to be formed and poured," he said. "We had some issues with the weather, with more rain than usual and having to work at night on the center bent due to median being so narrow."

The road widening operations are at an early stage with the paved shoulder already milled out and work is beginning on excavating the new lanes to grade. Brock is assisted by Thomas Bowers, assistant project manager; Adam Corey, project engineer; Lane Hussey, project engineer; and the S.T. Wooten design team.

"We have great communication and clear and defined role responsibilities, which makes for a great team," Brock stated. "We also have great crews that take a lot of pride in their work and that makes for a strong workforce."

S.T. Wooten expects to have several hundred construction workers on-site during peak periods, including those from the 20-plus subcontractors such as Stay Alert for traffic control; Bullington for guardrail; Central Carolinas Seeding for erosion control items; Sawyers for land clearing; Curtin for barrier wall; Delta for asphalt milling; and Clark Pavement Markings for striping.

"We recently forecasted 250 workers for a road construction project currently happening on I-40 in Raleigh," Brock said. "The I-95 project is slightly bigger in scope than that one."

Crews expect to remove 770,344 cu. yds. of earth, pour 50,000 cu. yds. of concrete, pave 1,414,714 tons of asphalt and 62,390 LF of storm drainage. Equipment-wise, S.T. Wooten crews are using 110-ton Link Belt cranes; Cat and John Deere excavators; Cat D6Ns and D5Ks and John Deere 700s dozers; various Cat pavers and rollers. S.T. Wooten purchases and rents equipment from a variety of local and regional dealerships. CEG
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In November 2019, a $22.5 million BUILD grant was awarded for another project along I-95 which would widen 27 miles of the highway between Exit 13 (I-74) and Exit 40 (US-301 / I-95 Business) from 4 to 8 lanes and raise the road in low-lying areas to make them less susceptible to flooding, notably a segment near Lumberton which was underwater during Hurricane Florence in 2018.

A portion of this project, a $448 million 19 mile segment between Exit 22 (US-301) and Exit 40, is scheduled to begin in 2028, though may be accelerated partially due to the grant and if more funding is enabled going forth. There's currently no timeline for the portion between Exit 13 and Exit 22.

Project Website & Maps (Exit 22 to Exit 40):

If completed, 52 miles of the 182 mile highway will have been doubled in capacity from 4 to 8 lanes without the use of tolling, again as previously proposed. The obvious gap in these two segments would be the Fayetteville Bypass, which is proposed to eventually be expanded to 8 lanes, though there are currently no active plans or funding identified. The rest of the corridor in the state outside these two projects and the Fayetteville Bypass would conceptually be widened to 6 lanes, though again, are currently unfunded and not actively being planned.

Funds expected to speed up I-95 widening south of Fayetteville

--- Quote ---Widening and improvements to a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Robeson and Cumberland counties are being sped up due to a grant.

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to accelerate the improvements because of a $22.5 million federal grant awarded this week.

It is the second major federal grant the NCDOT has received since the summer of 2018 to help fund major improvements along I-95 corridor.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant through its “Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development,”  or BUILD, program, which helps states and cities build and repair critical pieces of the transportation network.

The BUILD grant will improve mobility, safety and the resiliency of a section of I-95 that has been plagued by flooding in recent hurricanes. It will help fund the widening of the interstate between mile markers 13 and 40 – a 27-mile segment stretching from Lumberton to near Hope Mills.

Work on this section was anticipated to begin in 2028, but it now may be moved up by a couple of years as the result of the grant award, said DOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale. He said they don’t know yet exactly how much the grant will speed up the work.

“We should know by January,”  he said.

In addition to the widening, the NCDOT will raise portions of I-95 in several low-lying areas between mile markers 13 and 40 that are vulnerable to floods; build higher bridges over the Lumber River; and install state-of-the-art flood monitoring technology to better monitor hurricane evacuation routes.

“These grants are highly competitive, and they will help us modernize Interstate 95 in North Carolina,”  said Grady Hunt, the N.C. Board of Transportation’s representative from Robeson County in a press release. “This is a vital route in our state, and many consider I-95 to be the Main Street of the East Coast.”

Twice in the last three years, sections of I-95, including in Lumberton, were closed for several days after major hurricanes passed over North Carolina. The BUILD grant will allow the board to revise the STIP schedule and begin construction sooner on this section of I-95

“We know from experience with recent Hurricanes Matthew and Florence that we have to make our highways and other transportation infrastructure more resilient and less susceptible to major flooding in the future,”  said Greg Burns, the division engineer who oversees NCDOT work in Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson counties.

The earlier grant received for I-95 improvements came in June 2018 when a $147 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant was awarded for I-95 and U.S. 70 improvements. The INFRA grant was earmarked for widening two sections of I-95 north of Fayetteville to eight lanes, improving six interchanges, and upgrading sections of U.S. 70 to future Interstate 42 in eastern North Carolina. The grant also will pay for the installation of 300 miles of fiber optic cable along both highways to expand access to broadband and telecommunication access.
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At some point in the past few months, the southern I-95 segment (Exit 22 to Exit 40) was accelerated from 2028 up to being let in December 2020, however due to the impact of COVID-19 on transportation projects, both segments of I-95 widening (Exit 22 to Exit 40 and Exit 56 to Exit 81), have been deleted from July and December 2020 lettings with no potential date as to when they make be delayed to.

Both projects combined would have cost $1.2 billion (about $27.2 million per mile) and widened 44 miles from 4 to 8 lanes by 2024.

NCDOT delays two projects in Robeson County because of budget shortfall caused by COVID-19

--- Quote ---LUMBERTON – Two projects in Robeson County have been delayed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation because of the impact of COVID-19 on transportation and revenue.

The NCDOT is anticipating a shortfall of at least $300 million in its budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, because people across the state have adhered to Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Transportation Department.

The reduced budget has caused the department to adjust its spending priorities and project time lines, said Andrew Barksdale, NCDOT public information officer.

“Additionally, we were planning to start the construction of a roundabout sometime later this year at U.S. 301 and Parkton Tobermory Road,”  Barksdale said. “It’s now going to be fall 2022.”

The start of the Interstate 95 widening project also will be delayed by about six months, Barksdale said.

“That first section was to upgrade and widen I-95 from mile marker 22, north of Carthage Road, to mile marker 40,”  Barksdale said. “Before COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order, we were planning to award a design-build contract for that segment in December 2020.”

After the design was completed, construction would begin about a year later as stated in the contract, he said.

“It’s now going to be June 2021 when we award a design-build project for the segment from mile marker 22 to 40,”  Barksdale said.

More delays on county projects are to be expected because of budget impacts, he said.

An interchange upgrade on Carthage Road, which is part of the segment to widen and upgrade I-95 from mile markers 13 to 22, could be delayed, he said. The contract is scheduled to be awarded in 2021, but will likely be changed to a later date.

Before the virus, NCDOT also planned to begin construction of a roundabout at N.C. 710 and Deep Branch Road in the summer of 2021, Barksdale said. A delay in the project is anticipated, and the new contract date has not been set.

Because the Transportation Department revenue relies on the Motor Fuels Tax, Highway Use Tax and DMV fees, the significant budget impact has forced the department to notify local governments, stakeholders and the general public that all but about 50 major projects scheduled to start in the next 12 months are delayed, according to the NCDOT.

Projects moving forward are funded by Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles bonds, BUILD N.C. bonds and federal grants.

Projects scheduled to be awarded in the next year can be viewed on the NCDOT website.

Construction projects already awarded or underway will not be affected by changes.

The Transportation Department also is taking other steps to decrease expenditures, including:

– Allowing only mission critical purchases.

– Laying off temporary and embedded consultants.

– Suspending or decreasing many programs and services.

– A hiring freeze, except for positions that affect public safety.

The department also is in the process of developing plans for potential furloughs and a reduction in force, according to the Transportation Department. Plans are not yet complete and no decision has been made to enact them.
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The southern segment of I-95 widening (Exit 22 to Exit 40) will only be delayed until June 2021, a 6 month delay. This may well be the case with the northern project as well, meaning completion around 2024 - 2025 will still be likely.

YES LORD! :clap: :clap: :popcorn: I grew up having to ride down that wack cattle chute, first to visit family in Florida, then to visit my uncle stationed at Ft. Bragg...and when I ended up at nearby Pope AFB, got to know it way too well going home to Philly.

It will be glorious! Glorious!

An additional 9 mile segment has been funded for construction beginning in 2021, stretching from US-301 (Exit 22) to I-74 (Exit 13).

Like the previous projects, this will widen the interstate from 4 to 8 lanes and raise the roadway where necessary in flood-prone areas, notably south of US-301 which was underwater during Hurricane Florence.

A public meeting for the $295 million project is currently scheduled for Fall 2020, environmental documentation by Winter 2020, and right of way / construction occurring by Summer 2021.

Split across three separate projects - Exit 81 to 56, Exit 40 to Exit 22, Exit 22 to Exit 13 - 52 miles of I-95 (nearly 30% of the corridor) will be widened and modernized from 4 to 8 lanes by 2025, an investment of nearly $1.5 billion. No tolls will be implemented on I-95.

Project Website:
May 2020 Newsletter:


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