NCDOT Takes Pressure Off I-26 With $22M U.S. 25 Job

Wed December 08, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Gwenyth Laird Pernie

By fall 2006, motorists traveling U.S. 25 between Hendersonville and Asheville, NC, will have a much less crowded and much smoother commute. Crews are widening the highway to five lanes as part of a $22 million expansion contract.

Site preparations for the five-laning of a 3.9-mi. (6.2 km) stretch of U.S. 25 located between Fletcher and Hendersonville, NC, began last fall.

The general contractor for the project is Tennoca Construction Co. of Canton, NC. Tim Goodson is project manager. Wang Engineering Co. was responsible for the road construction plans.

According to Aaron Powell, assistant resident engineer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), the old road was in fair condition and functioning but often with heavy traffic and backups.

“It was 25 feet wide, with two lanes and two- to three-foot shoulders –– that is, if there were shoulders,” Powell said. “Widening U.S. 25 between Fletcher and Hendersonville will alleviate heavy traffic problems on the highway, accommodating what is expected to be a major commercial thoroughfare between Hendersonville and Asheville.”

According to Jamie Wilson, division construction engineer of NCDOT, the widening of U.S. 25 also is expected to take the pressure off Interstate 26.

The new highway will be five lanes, including a center turn lane. There will be two, 11-ft. (3.4 m) interior lanes and two, 14-ft. (4.3m) exterior lanes. The added width to the exterior lanes will accommodate bike traffic.

The shoulders will be 10 ft. (3 m) wide, except in areas with guardrail, where there will be 15-ft. (4.5 m) shoulders. Overall, there will be 66 ft. (20.1 m) from curb to curb, including 2 ft. (.6 m) of curb on each side.

Standard construction practices were used on this project. Grading has been handled by Tennoca. Approximately 110,000 cu. yds. (84,150 cu m) of dirt has been excavated.

Paving was subcontracted by Tennoca to APAC-Atlantic. As of late September, crews had laid a total of 4,540 tons (4,118 t) of base course, 1,214 tons (1,102 t) of intermediate course and 2,061 tons (1,870 t) of surface course.

Along with new road, two bridges are being constructed along this section of U.S. 25. Taylor & Murphy Construction, Asheville, NC, is the subcontractor for both of the bridges. John Herrin is the project manager. The bridges were designed by Rummel, Klepper and Cahl Consulting Engineers, located in Raleigh, NC.

One bridge replaces a 40-year-old, 69-ft. (21 m) wide, five-lane bridge that crosses I-26. The new structure is more than 93 ft. (28.4 m) wide with two through lanes and a turning lane in each direction. The bridge will have 5.5-ft. (1.68 m) sidewalks on each side and wider than normal shoulders for emergency pull-off or future expansion.

The second bridge, which crosses over Mud Creek, will be 375 ft. (114. m) long with five lanes and a sidewalk.

Traffic during road construction has been handled through temporary lane closures on U.S. 25, and while setting the steel girtters of the I-26 bridge, the traffic on I-26 will be detoured up the ramps and over the interstate.

Wilson noted that environmental considerations were needed to minimize the impact to the wetland area surrounding the Mud Creek bridge.

“Special attention was given in determining the access causeways, specifically the locations of the haul roads,” Wilson said. “A geotech-style material was laid down along the haul roads to catch any debris that might fall during transport along the road.”

According to Powell, the job has gone smoothly, with grade separation presenting the only challenge.

“Lowering the grade of the existing road for the new construction while maintaining the traffic has been a bit of a challenge,” explained Powell, “but we have handled it with minimal disruptions to the traffic flow.”

Wilson agreed that building the road while maintaining traffic flow has presented some concerns. “The main challenge has been trying to build the road and maintain traffic in an urban area,” Wilson said. “However, this section of U.S. 25 was the last to be constructed because it had the least amount of traffic, so traffic problems have been easily managed.”