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Report Blames NCDOT for Joint Flaws at I-40 Widening Project

Wed October 26, 2005 - Southeast Edition
CEG



RALEIGH, NC (AP) The state may have to tear up a busy 11-mi. stretch of Interstate 40 in Durham County as concrete poured just last year continues to crumble, a problem an independent consultant blames on the state Department of Transportation.

The department plans to make emergency repairs by Thanksgiving to the stretch of eastbound I-40 near state Highway 55, expanded from four lanes to six as part of a $51.5-million project. The department might also strip off a 3-in. layer of concrete on four lanes of the entire 10.8-mi. section of road and replace it with asphalt.

“I’m pretty livid about it,” said Kenneth B. Spaulding, a member of the state transportation board from Durham. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that you put in a new highway, and it’s put in wrong. And within months we are having to dodge rocks coming out of the concrete that is breaking up.”

According to a report prepared by Applied Pavement Technology Inc., an Illinois-based consultant, Transportation Department engineers failed to tell the project contractor how to properly install the concrete, while inspectors also failed to properly examine the work.

The report said concrete added on top of four original lanes was improperly designed and installed. Thousands of expansion joints cut into the top layer needed to reach the original surface, but most were not cut deep enough.

Normal expansion of the old concrete has resulted in too much pressure on the top layer, causing some areas to break apart, the report said.

“There’s a serious problem out there,” Transportation Department spokesman Ernie Seneca said. “We’re working on getting it fixed. Right now our top priority is to go forward with short-term repairs. The entire project may have to be redone.”

Michael Derksen, the I-40 project manager of Granite Construction Co. of Watsonville, CA, said the consultant report appeared to confirm his company performed the job according to Transportation Department specifications.

“I think what they’re finding is that the joints should have been sawed full-depth, but the contract only specified that it be cut an inch and a half,” Derksen said in a telephone interview. “They tested it, and they accepted it, and they paid us for it.

“If they wanted it three inches deep, we would have cut it three inches deep,” Derksen said. “There’s no reason we would not have wanted to.”

Transportation Department officials suggested that they would ask Granite to pay for the repairs. Seneca said financial details would be settled later.

Spaulding recommended the state bring in new people to handle the repairs.

“Whatever right is, they need to have the guts to do it right,” he said. “And they need to make sure the people who are making these mistakes are not part of the so-called correction. We don’t need more errors.”