Planners expect 1.4 million tons of asphalt to be needed.
S.T. Wooten is finishing up a multi-year construction project to double the traffic capacity on I-95 in North Carolina. This massive project covers 18.2 mi. and is now 82 percent complete. Final details will stretch into 2025, but by then motorists will already be enjoying two additional lanes in each direction on this highway, providing less congestion and greater safety.
In addition to the new highway lanes, Wooten has demolished and replaced eight of the nine bridges for the project. The new bridges will accommodate the additional lanes and clearance will be raised to approximately 17 ft., allowing for taller trucks and loads. These efforts will modernize this important stretch of highway in North Carolina that was originally constructed in the late 1950s.
North Carolina DOT has authorized an additional project on I-95 that will bring the modernized piece to around 25 mi. The cost of the project is expected to be $692 million.
Wooten's work will encompass the highway from exits 55 to 71, while the work from exit 71 to exit 81 is under way and in the hands of a Flatiron Construction and Fred Smith Joint Venture, which extends just past the major intersection with I-40. This second major section is expected to be completed in 2026.
Within the S. T. Wooten section, workers will replace six interchanges with new overpasses, loops and ramps to meet today's traffic needs. In addition, service roads will be reconfigured for safety and congestion relief.
Staging is always a challenge, especially when working on a busy interstate like I-95.
"We began by moving traffic over into a temporary traffic pattern towards the median while we were building the outside lanes," said Ronald Brock, construction manager of S.T. Wooten. "Now we have moved the traffic to the outside completed lanes while we finish up with the permanent inside lanes. We had to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction at all times." However, Wooten regularly had lane closures overnight, starting at 7 p.m., for small stretches of this highway to do some planned construction.
Due to high traffic volumes during the day workers labored at night building bridge sections over the freeway. Sometimes live traffic was rerouted to detours during these phases of construction.
The entire area is quite flat, so workers installed subsurface drains to handle moisture from rain and groundwater. In addition, the construction team performed erosion control and is building sound walls to keep traffic noise to a minimum for nearby homeowners.
Wooten and its team are constructing 5-ft.-tall median walls to separate the traffic in the final pattern. Workers also have built temporary accesses in the median to enable construction traffic to safely enter and exit the work zone. NCDOT has added a safety enhancement by making a tow truck available 24/7. This means car or truck breakdowns on the highway will be handled quickly and not cause backups that might impede the road-building work.
Wooten uses machines equipped with GPS monitoring to help with accuracy for earth moving and paving. In addition, the Wooten team used drones to accurately measure material stockpiles.
The project will require an enormous amount of asphalt for paving. Planners expect 1.4 million tons of asphalt to be needed. Wooten's asphalt plants in Benson, Clayton and Garner are producing the material.
The new lanes will have 22 in. of stone subgrade; a base asphalt layer of 5.5 in.; 4 in. of intermediate layer; and a 3-in. layer of Superpave on top.
"We were able to put asphalt removed through milling into the base or intermediate layers of the new lanes," said Brock. "This conserves material and saves us time in the construction."
NC DOT planners also considered flood prevention in their work orders for Wooten. In 2020 the agency added to the project by including the replacement of a culvert under Murphy Road. A bridge near exit 55 will span Reese Creek and help prevent future flooding.
Drivers passing over the current I-95 Black River Bridge can see another flood protection move. The new Black River bridge is being built next to the current one and will be a single eight-lane structure. Motorists can see that the new bridge will be 8 to 9 ft. higher than the existing bridge. Planners hope the new bridge will be high enough to prevent flooding from hurricanes that put the bridge under water in the past.
Andrew Barksdale, spokesman of NCDOT, is pleased with progress on the I-95 work. He commented that the federal government had helped with costs to make the road more flood proof.
"The federal money helped move this project forward," said Barksdale. "This part of the interstate was closed after one of the major hurricanes and it affected the whole East Coast. This new funding has helped us improve and modernize this historic interstate."
NCDOT recognizes the importance of the project not just to residents of the state but to travelers across the region.
"I-95 is the main street for the East Coast, a vital corridor for commerce, trucking and tourism," said Barksdale "This widening has been badly needed. This new highway will ease congestion and accommodate future growth in traffic volumes, ensuring that I-95 remains a vital part of North Carolina's transportation system." CEG
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