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PLT Carves Path for Kinston Area’s Economic Success

Wed June 14, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

Just outside Kinston, NC, a short gravel road used to wander south from NC 56. The most dramatic architectural features on the flat piece of land were several upright power poles that serve an annual farm equipment show staged at the site.

That scene has changed now. The country road is gone, buried by hundreds of truckloads of dirt. A concrete culvert traverses the area so deer and other wildlife can cross safely what soon will be a four-lane divided roadway.

PLT Construction Company of Wilson, NC, is building the road that state officials hope one day will be traveled by trucks heading to and from the Global TransPark, which sits just off the west side of the new road’s right-of-way.

The TransPark is a legislative creation that was envisioned as an economic boon to eastern North Carolina, a largely agricultural region. Like many other farm areas, eastern North Carolina is struggling. Officials hope the TransPark will diversify the region’s economic base and attract other industries.

The park includes a runway, now being extended, that can accommodate transport planes. The plan is to have manufacturing plants on the edges of the runway. Materials would be flown in and products flown out — or trucks would serve the plants from Atlantic seaports farther east — in a state-of-the-art just-in-time manufacturing process.

So far, the decade-old plan hasn’t borne much fruit. The roadway is the latest development to undergird the idea.

Riding with PLT vice president Sim Wooten along the 3.5-kilometer (2.1 mi.) path of the road’s first phase does not perfectly produce a vision of the completed roadway.

The site is flat (as is much of eastern North Carolina) but too low-lying to give the roadbed adequate drainage. No hillside cuts will be necessary on this job.

For now the grubbed route runs from NC 58 past a spit of forest and alongside the TransPark before it intersects and stops at John Mewborne Road. A partially-cleared area across Mewborne will eventually lead traffic to Airport Road. This first leg of the divided highway will continue on the other side of Airport Road and end at Rouse Road. A second phase eventually will take traffic from that point on south to NC 258.

Navigating the future route at this stage of construction has Wooten crisscrossing the area. “You’ve got to go around your elbow to get to your tongue,” he observed.

Sawyer’s Land Development Company of Bellhaven, NC was contracted to clear the site, which sits on the edge of Kinston. Besides the tree clearing — and in one instance the leveling of a Cedar Fresh Industries plant that had the misfortune to be situated in the path of the roadway — the latter stages of the roadbed were barely evident in the first 320 meters (200 yds.) of the roadbed were taking shape, thanks to the work of trucking subcontractors.

Trucks belonging to three North Carolina firms — St. Claire Trucking of Washington, Alston Contracting of Roanoke Rapids and M. Short Trucking and Landscaping of Wilson — were running constantly from a borrow pit down NC 58 to the site and back, again and again.

Before their work is done, some 60,000 truckloads of soil are expected to be hauled and dumped on site. In all, some 460,000 cubic meters (598,000 cu. yds.) of dirt will be moved.

The soil collection point is not nearby. It is 13.5 kilometers (8.5 mi.) from the project. Though a closer site was possible, the terms of the contract wouldn’t allow it, Wooten explained. “No borrow pit was allowed closer than six miles to the airport.”

The reasoning was simple: Where earth is dug out, a depression is apt to be left. Where there is a low spot, there is apt to be pooling of water. And where water collects, waterfowl are apt to congregate. Airplane pilots don’t like extra birds in the air near where they are going to land.

This unusual contractual term left PTL no choice but to find a spot farther away. They found one back west along NC 58 on a gentle rise next to Contentnea Creek. Sawyer’s grubbed the tree-cleared site and six inches of top soil was piled high on the edge of a field.

Now two excavators methodically work their way across the 9.2-hectare (23 acre) site, loading the trucks. On the lower end is a Komatsu 220. Atop the ridge and perched on the edge of an embankment of its own creation is a Samsung 350 with a 2.7-meter (3 yd.) bucket, a brand new piece of equipment bought just for this project.

Wooten calls the site “an ideal borrow pit” with plenty of room for trucks to pull in and out without backing. However, he concedes it is a fairly long way to have to transport the material.

PLT general superintendent Sonny Wooten said he would like to have 20 to 25 trucks hauling, instead of the 17 to 18 working now. But other projects across the region are keeping truckers busy.

When the last truckload of dirt has been taken from the ridge overlooking the Contentnea, the site will be smoothed, topsoil spread again and the property turned into a productive agricultural field.

The short $6.5-million road project began in January but has been periodically interrupted by rain. “April was a wet month,” Sim Wooten said, “but it was for everybody. The project is on schedule.”

It is scheduled to be complete in November of next year. Paul Smith is project superintendent.

The wildlife culvert is for the time being sort of a necessary impediment to the progress of the overall job. The rest of the project is being worked around it because hauling dirt past it is not practical. And where it crosses the roadbed, the structure has added to the need for dirt by raising the elevation of the road at that point.

The culvert is 480 centimeters (16 ft.) wide and 270 centimeters (9 ft.) tall, certainly large enough to let a fairly large number of deer clatter through it at any one time. Toler Contracting Company of Carrollton, VA, built the culvert, pouring some 300 cubic meters (480 cu. yds.) of concrete into it.

All that hauled-in soil is spread by the company’s Champion Series 4 and 5 graders. Medians and shoulders are shaped by PLT Komatsu and Caterpillar earthmovers. The soil is packed by an Ingersoll-Rand 100 compactor.

The finished roadbed will be asphalted by Barrus Construction Co. of Wilson. The paving contractor will lay 33,000 metric tons (36,300 tons) of asphalt to create the four traffic lanes. A plant to generate the material has been erected near the airport grounds.

Brewer’s Plumbing is utilities subcontractor.

PLT is short for Proctor, Lamm and Turnage, three individuals who formed the company in 1992. Mark Proctor and Greg Turnage today own the Wilson firm, which has combined business volume in its commercial and highway divisions of $10 to $20 million a year.

The company’s 50 employees are dispersed among several projects — including a Department of Transportation job in Halifax County and one in Wilson County.

As the young company enters a new century, it is in the process of constructing a concrete mixing plant in Wilson.

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