Plans to widen Interstate 95 in Robeson County still are in motion, with all of them fully funded and construction scheduled to begin in 2022, said a spokesman of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
The widening project within the southeastern North Carolina county in is the development phase, with construction scheduled to start in 2022 and finish in 2026, according to the NCDOT's website. The project is divided into four sections encompassing mile markers 13 to 21, 21 to 29, 29 to 37 and 37 to 40.
"For all the above projects, we plan to widen to a total of eight travel lanes, four in each direction," said Andrew Barksdale with the state agency. "And with the exceptions of exits 13 and 22, we will replace and rebuild the bridges and interchanges, and modernize the ramps that, in some cases, includes adding roundabouts."
But projects have experienced delays because of budget cuts related to COVID-19, he said.
In April, NCDOT announced an anticipated shortfall of at least $300 million for the 2019 fiscal year ending this past June 30 because of the lack of vehicles on the roadways during Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order.
Because NCDOT's revenue stream relies on the motor fuels and highway use taxes, and DMV fees, the budget took a big hit, which caused the department to delay many projects across the state, including at least two in Robeson County.
One delay was the design-build contract for the upgrade and widening of I-95 from mile marker 21 to 37, Barksdale said. The state agency now plans to award a bid in August 2021, eight months later than planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, with project construction projected to start by 2022.
Another delay was in the construction of a roundabout at N.C. 710 and Deep Branch Road in Pembroke, he said. The issuance of a contract for the $3 million project has been delayed until August 2022.
The NCDOT's I-95 widening from mile marker 13 to mile marker 21 will include the replacement of bridges and interchanges at exits 17, 19 and 20, Barksdale said.
The Carthage Road interchange at Exit 19 will remain the same, but intersections at its access ramps will be controlled by roundabouts instead of stop signs. The contract should be awarded in the summer of 2021, and the project completed in 2026.
"We're excited we are able to fund these widening projects along I-95, and we are still finalizing the plans and designs for most of them," Barksdale said. "When construction gets under way in a few years, this will be a long work zone, but we'll continue to maintain four lanes of traffic while the improvements are being constructed."
The NCDOT does not have any funded projects to widen I-95 south of Exit 13 through the year 2029, he said.
"We hope to do that in the future," Barksdale explained, "but we are focusing on widening the parts of I-95 that need the improvements the most, due to higher traffic volumes and congestion and higher crash rates."
The widening project extends from Lumberton north to Fayetteville. Estimated costs within Robeson County amount to approximately $897.6 million.