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Warm Weather Brings Bustling Work to Goldsboro Bypass

Mon June 15, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

A great deal of red Carolina clay is being moved in the area around Interstate 795 on the northwest edge of Goldsboro as road crews are busy working on a much-needed bypass for U.S. 70 around the town.

Located about 55 mi. southeast of Raleigh, the “Goldsboro Bypass” is designed to route traffic around the north side of the town and keep drivers moving without having to encounter too many stoplights. The work being done now will connect the bypass to the existing U.S. 70 on the west and east sides of Goldsboro.

The overall bypass will stretch for just over 20 mi. (32 km) and cost $234 million as part of a larger effort to upgrade U.S. 70 from Raleigh east to Morehead City on the Atlantic coast.

The work going on now is the first of three sections of the Goldsboro Bypass. It is 3.9 mi. (6.3 km) in length and is a $65.5 million project, according to Thomas “Mike” McKeel, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)’s resident engineer for the project. Work began in late September and should be completed by the end of 2011.

McKeel characterizes this project as the middle section of the three phases to the Goldsboro Bypass. The portions of the project to the west and to the east of the current work will be finished in the 2013 to 2015 time frame. The western end of the bypass now under construction starts just east of Salem Church Road and will run to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive on the northeast side of Goldsboro.

“This will be a four-lane expressway with limited access,” McKeel explained. “It is designed to take U.S. 70 traffic away from the current path around Goldsboro, which is a mish-mash of controlled, semi-controlled and uncontrolled access. I think the end result is to eliminate as many of the signalized intersections as possible, because that is what slows traffic down.”

McKeel said that the stretch of U.S. 70 through Goldsboro is one of the more heavily traveled corridors in eastern North Carolina. A lot of that traffic comes from people driving to and from the Triangle cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill to the beaches around Morehead City.

McKeel and his NCDOT colleagues are working with Barnhill Contracting Co. in Tarboro, the project’s general contractor, to move the bypass work forward after being slowed somewhat by a wet winter. He estimated that only about 10 percent of the work had been completed by mid April.

“Weather certainly had an impact on the work during the winter,” McKeel admitted. “We had a lot of rain and on a couple of occasions snow. Traditionally, of course, any kind of excavation and embankment field construction does take a hit during the wintertime. But Barnhill is pretty aggressive in their dirt hauling. They have utilized every opportunity that they could to haul during the winter season. I’m expecting some very heavy work as we go through the spring and summer months.”

The Goldsboro Bypass is a brand new road location, meaning that work is progressing over what were once open fields and dense woods in a largely rural area. Grading is the main activity going on there now, although crews also are working on the first of 16 bridges and overpasses that will span streams, wetlands and existing roads.

McKeel said that there is nothing unusual about the bridges and overpasses themselves, other than the fact that there are so many of them in relation to the project’s size.

The Raleigh office of Balfour Beatty Construction is building the bridges on the Goldsboro Bypass. At several points along the project’s path the company’s crews can be found erecting the supports for those spans.

The type of ground they are setting those foundations into varies greatly across the project, McKeel said.

“For the most part it is even terrain — flat and sandy — although there are one or two parts that are hilly,” he said. “This area, though, also is known to have a lot of wetlands and those need to be addressed. Goldsboro is only about 60 feet above sea level, so you don’t have to dig too deep before you hit ground water.”

McKeel and the NCDOT characterize those wetlands as Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) and there are 14 such sites just on this project alone.

At the point where the bypass will cross the swampy Stoney Creek, crews have had to erect an almost 600-ft. (183 m) long temporary bridge to give themselves a platform from which to build twin permanent bridges for the roadway. Otherwise, Balfour Beatty’s massive 175-ton (159 t) Manitowoc 4000W lattice crawler crane being used there now would sink into the thick muck.

Bridges and overpasses also are now being built at the western end of the bypass where it will tie in to U.S. 117/Interstate 795.

“The bypass will cross a number of roads, from a few two-lane secondary roads to a couple of primary routes, such as N.C. 11 and U.S. 117 Alternate,” McKeel said. “But the biggest crossing, where the heaviest amount of work will be, is where it crosses U.S. 117/Interstate 795 and that is a major interchange. There, we are building a number of ramps, fly-arounds and loops to move the traffic from one road to the next.”

Indeed, on a recent warm, sunny spring day, a number of crews were busy in several areas of the interchange. Excavators, articulated trucks, dozers — both large and small — and rollers were all busily taking advantage of the good weather to grade the roadway and its approaches. Nearby, cranes were being positioned to erect the bridge supports across U.S. 117/I-795.

Primarily, the grading work is being carried out using Caterpillar equipment, such as model 735 and 740 articulated trucks, 300 series hydraulic excavators, motorgraders of all sizes, D6 track loaders and 400 series backhoes. In addition, Barnhill also is using Komatsu PC 200LC and 300LC hydraulic excavators on the job.

Over at the bridge sites, Balfour Beatty is utilizing the aforementioned Manitowoc cranes, as well as 100-ton Link-Belt model 218H cranes.

Overall, despite the slow start, McKeel is pleased with the progress that Barnhill and its various subcontractors are making on this leg of the Goldsboro Bypass. In fact, he expects the project to be finished on time or even a little ahead of its November 2011 completion date.CEG

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