Knightdale Bypass Rises Near Raleigh

Tue December 02, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

Contractors have one year left before the scheduled completion of North Carolina’s Knightdale Bypass, a project that includes 14 mi. (22.5 km) of six-lane divided highway and 24 bridges near Raleigh, NC.

The project, currently one of North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) largest contracts and also one of the state’s largest design-build projects, is expected to relieve congestion along U.S. 64 for local commuters and other travelers in eastern Wake County.

Two contractors, North Carolina Constructors and Vecellio & Grogan Inc., have been awarded portions of the $173 million contract that is expected to be finished December 2004.

North Carolina Contractors (NCC) is performing a large portion of the work on this aggressively scheduled 30-month project. NCC, based in Knightdale, NC, is a joint venture of 60 percent HBG Flatiron Inc., Longmont, CO, and 40 percent Lane Construction Co., Meriden, CT.

“The joint venture was set up for this project,” said NCC’s project manager Paul Newman. “However, the company will be pursuing other contracts in the future.”

NCC’s contract, worth $131 million, consists of 9.6 mi. (15.4 km) of six-lane divided highway and 23 bridge structures. The bridges are located at 15 separate sites –– six will be constructed of precast concrete girders and nine will feature structural steel girders. In addition, the bridges will be up to 16 spans in length, with one bridge almost .25 mi. (.4 km) long, all installed on drilled pier foundations.

NCC started work on the Knightdale Bypass in July 2002 with clearing operations beginning in mid-August. Soon after, earthmoving equipment owned by subcontractor, Glover Construction, Pleasant Hill, NC, began loading and hauling an estimated 3.7 million cu. yds. (2.8 million cu m) of dirt and rock. During the winter months of 2002, crews began erecting structural steel and precast concrete girders. Crews also continued excavation and embankment work as well as pile driving and drill shaft construction.

HBG Flatiron crews and its subcontractors now are working at nearly every bridge site. Precast girders have been placed at three different sites while subcontractors haul and dump materials at various other sites. At bridge four, the mainline trestle runs in between the eastbound and westbound bridges, allowing access for drilling shafts and placing girders.

To the east, at the other end of the project, girder erection at bridges 10, 13 and 14 began the first week of September. All bridges will be completed by April 2004, as long as the weather cooperates.

The weather somewhat hindered NCC’s progress on the project since work began. In November 2002, work was briefly delayed due to a severe ice storm. More recently, three heavy downpours of rain this past August caused stone dams and filtration systems, which were built to control flooding, to be filled to capacity. A short time ago, Hurricane Isabel closed down cut and fill operations and structural steel erection for three days.

“The weather has been a challenge this year,” said Newman. “We had several rain events where the amount and frequencies were way above normal from prior months. The soil, which is reddish clay, does not dry very fast. Any kind of significant rainfall will take two or three days to dry out.”

Another challenging aspect of the project is some of the bridge sites are situated over highly-regulated wetlands. The most difficult for NCC crews proved to be the 662-ft.-long (201 m) bridge 2 over Crabtree Creek and the 1,575-ft.-long (480 m) bridge 4 over the Neuse River.

Both bridge sites “travel over wetlands areas and required temporary work structures to be erected to position the cranes and other equipment necessary to build the bridges,” said Newman.

There are currently three cranes being used on project. Newman said the company usually uses Manitowoc 777 200-ton (181 t) cranes. “We used steel trestle with wood mats for access with the cranes,” he explained.

Next summer, Lane Construction Co., part of NCC, will be performing concrete paving. When finished, the new roadway will be 11.6-in. (29 cm) thick concrete pavement laid on a 3-in. (7.6 cm) permeable asphalt drainage layer. Beneath that will be 1 in. (2.5 cm) of asphalt concrete surface, and underneath it all is 8 in. (20.3 cm) of either lime or cement-treated subbase.

Veccellio & Grogran Inc., the other contractor working on the Knightdale Bypass, also began work during July 2002. The Beckley, WV-based company’s $41-million-contract, one of the largest in its history, includes 2 mi. (3.2 km) of construction. This includes two interchanges and a number of flyover structures, which will be a mix of concrete and structural steel. When Vecellio & Grogan’s portion is completed, also in December 2004, it will connect the new bypass through an interchange leading to I-440 and another interchange at New Hope Road.

The contract includes 698,100 cubic yards (534,000 cu m) of excavation, including some rock and nearly the same amount of borrow, said Alli Michael, operations administrator of Vecellio & Grogan. The excavation will be self-performed by the company. The earthwork includes bringing the roadway to grade, constructing bridge embankments and building interchange ramps. The company will also perform the installation of all the storm drainage. Other portions of the job will be subcontracted, including paving, signage, and sewer and gas line relocation.

The extensive utility line relocations have been the most difficult task so far for Vecellio & Grogan. Subcontractor Park Construction, Morrisville, NC, is performing the utility line relocation. A 60-in. (152.4 cm) Raleigh sewer main that was in the center of the project had to be relocated south of the new alignment and outside of the right-of-way in an easement. The relocated line will become dual 60-in. lines.

Even with the inordinate amount of rainfall, Hurricane Isabel and wetland issues, the Knightdale Bypass remains on track and should be completed on time.