After 60-Year Wait, East End Connector Takes Shape

📅   Wed April 26, 2017 - Southeast Edition #9
Brenda Ruggiero

NCDOT photo
Nearly six decades after the project was first proposed, the $142 million East End Connector is taking shape in Durham County, N.C.
NCDOT photo Nearly six decades after the project was first proposed, the $142 million East End Connector is taking shape in Durham County, N.C.

Nearly six decades after the project was first proposed, the $142 million East End Connector is taking shape in Durham County, N.C.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation, city of Durham and Durham County broke ground on the 3.9-mi. (6.2 km) project on April 22, 2015. It will provide a direct connection between the Durham Freeway (N.C. 147) and Miami Boulevard (U.S. 70) — two major east-west highways in the area — and improved access to I-85 and I-40.

The contract involves building a 1.25-mi. (2 km) freeway from N.C. 147 to U.S. 70, and also converting approximately 2.75 mi. (4.4 km) of U.S. 70, which will be part of the East End Connector, to a freeway.

The project is scheduled for completion in January of 2020. According to Cameron Richards, resident engineer of Division 5 Construction – Aviation Parkway at NCDOT, the progress schedule showed the progress at 39 percent compared to a scheduled 34 percent as of the last pay estimate.

The full dollar amount of the contract is $141.9 million, and the project was awarded to Dragados USA, with Matt Levey serving as the deputy project manager.

The completed East End Connector will be a 3.9-mi. four-lane freeway with space for a future third lane in each direction.

In addition to building a new roadway, work involves building 16 bridges, rehabilitating four others and installing four culverts on U.S. 70, N.C. 147 and other locations in project area. The project also involves grading and drainage.

“This project is unique in that it contains almost every aspect of a major heavy civil highway project,” Richards said. “This includes concrete and asphalt paving; several diverse structures (16 bridges that include flyover structures, railroad structures, and four rehab bridges); 21 walls (MSE walls; soil nail wall, CIP gravity wall, sound barrier wall); culvert construction (four culverts); utility construction; and subgrade stabilization.”

According to NCDOT, upon the completion of the project, the East End Connector is expected to promote economic development in areas along the I-85 corridor toward Virginia by improving access for people and goods between Durham (and counties north of the city) and major employment and retail centers, including Research Triangle Park, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Wake County.

It also is projected that it will alleviate congestion on the Durham Freeway through downtown Durham and to aid in diverting traffic off local roads.

“The primary challenge on the project is the phased construction,” Richards said. “Temporary alignments and structures must be constructed to maintain both vehicle and train traffic throughout the project as new aspects are built. Extensive coordination with utility owners is also required to ensure that conflicts are avoided during construction.”

Richards noted that major subcontractors include, but are not limited to Covenant Trucking Co. Inc., hauling various earthwork materials; Southeast Caissons LLC, drilled pier and pile excavation for structures; Fred Smith Company, asphalt paving; Zachry Construction Corporation, concrete paving; Hardscapes Construction Inc., MSE wall installation; and Bailey Contracting, utility installation (water and sewer).

Richards also reported that various equipment used on the job includes, but is not limited to a John Deere 770GP motorgrader, a Hamm 3410 smooth drum vibratory roller, a Grove RT700E crane, a Link-Belt RTC8065 crane, a Terex HC110 lattice boom crane, a John Deere 470G track hoe, a Cat 815F sheeps foot roller, a John Deere 624K loader, a John Deere 245G excavator and a John Deere 750K dozer.

According to Richards, approximate quantities for the project include 746,000 cu. yds. (570,357 cu m) of earth moved; 227,000 tons (205,930 t) of asphalt placed; 23,000 cu. yds. (17,584 cu m) of concrete pavement; and 11,000 cu. yds. (8,410 cu m) of other miscellaneous concrete poured.

A unique structure that the project features is described as a “scissor bridge,” according to Richards.

“This structure is unique in that traffic will not travel across the end bents of the structure, as is typical, but will actually run parallel to them on the deck slab,” he said. “This bridge will carry traffic travelling along the new East End Connector corridor (the new stretch of roadway between U.S. 70 and NC 147) over NC 147.”

NDOT noted that some short-term detours and lane closures have been necessary during construction. These include a temporary detour alignment on N.C. 147, with some overnight lane closures during the week and weekends on U.S. 70 and N.C. 147; temporary road closures for a maximum of 30 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. on U.S. 70, N.C 147, N.C. 98, Rowena Road, Ellis Road, Miami Boulevard, Lynn Road, Pleasant Road and Angier Avenue; and a detour on Holloway Street from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends. Lane closures are prohibited on southbound N.C. 147 between 8 and 10:30 p.m. when there are events at the Durham Performing Arts Center and Durham Bulls Athletic Park. In addition, there will be no lane closures during peak travel times of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.—CEG