Bypass nears completion|Construction ‘months ahead’ of completion date

Published 6:10 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Staff Writer

Work on the U.S. Highway 17 bypass at Washington is “months ahead” of schedule, and it could be completed well before the target date, said a source working on the project.
“What we’re trying to do is get the paving done,” said Mark Mallett, project manager for contractor Flatiron/United.
The goal is to allow public access to the bypass after all inspection work has finished and the state has signed off on the work, said Bill Kincannon, a resident engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Bridge inspection will take “a considerable amount of time,” Kincannon said.
Though the main work could be over by spring, that’s no guarantee motorists will be traveling on the bypass by then, he confirmed.
Workers with subcontractor S.T. Wooten Corp. of Wilson were busy paving off-ramps between bridge sections of the bypass Tuesday morning.
“If we can get that done this year, we should be in good shape to get the project completed early in 2010,” Mallett said.
The contractual completion date is Nov. 1, 2010, he related.
“We’re definitely looking at several months ahead of that completion date,” he said.
Kincannon said, “Overall, the paving has gone well.”
“The paving has been hampered greatly by the rain,” he noted.
The construction of the $192 million bypass started in March 2007, according to previous Daily News reports.
The 6.8-mile bypass begins at Price Road south of Chocowinity and extends to Springs Road north of Washington.
Once open, the bypass will redirect traffic on U.S. 17 around Washington, rather than through it, as under the current traffic pattern.
The speed limit on the bypass will be 70 mph, according to DOT’s Web site.
The construction project is posting a cost overrun of 3.57 percent, show the latest figures available from DOT’s Web site.
The overruns are attributable to a range of factors, including design modifications and environmental-compliance moves, Kincannon explained.
DOT has yet to release all of the funds to fully pay the contractor, but it will do so once the work has been inspected and approved, said Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill, who is familiar with the project.
Technically, the bypass belongs to the contractor until DOT assumes responsibility for it, Spruill said.
DOT “will go through a long and thorough inspection before taking ownership of the highway,” he said.
“Only upon taking ownership of the highway will DOT consider whether or not opening the highway to travel ahead of schedule is a possibility,” Spruill said.
Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette reflected on the prolonged lobbying efforts that preceded the building.
“It took a lot of years to get it to the point where it was actually under construction, and it’s just amazing to watch it go up so quickly,” Jennette said.
Jennette said she attended many of DOT’s official public hearings and voiced the city’s support for the bypass.
She added that she wished the city could have had more say in the exact route, noting that the new highway sections passed over some municipal water and sewer lines.
It cost the city $1.7 million to relocate the utility infrastructure, she said.
“And we weren’t expecting that,” Jennette said.
Jennette commended the contractor for its innovative construction techniques, noting that the company’s innovations have been featured in engineering publications.
She also praised the perspective available from the new bridge over the Pamlico River.
“That’s really one of the best views in Beaufort County up there,” she said. “It is gorgeous to look out over the river at that height.”