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Worth the Wait — U.S. 220 Receives $17.6M Upgrade

After 20 years of discussion and planning, a two-part road project on Greensboro’s rapidly-growing northwest side is finally under way.

Tue March 31, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

After 20 years of discussion and planning, a two-part road project on Greensboro’s rapidly-growing northwest side is finally under way.

The 9.4-mi. (15.1 km) long U.S. Highway 220/N.C. Highway 68 connector, which will one day be rebranded as I-73, is a four-lane highway under construction just west and north of Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI).

The main part of the $176.5 million project also includes two new interchanges and a pair of bridges across Reedy Fork Creek. The second part of the project is state funded and makes up a new taxiway bridge for planes at the airport.

The goal of the road portion of the project is to improve the traffic flow around PTI and the northwestern part of Guilford County, which is heavily populated with a mix of neighborhoods and businesses.

An Accelerated Project

Work first began on the project last July, but construction became most apparent to area motorists late in the summer. Plans call for the entire project to be finished in the first quarter of 2017, according to the North Carolina DOT.

The construction of the connector and the taxiway bridge was set to begin in 2016, but, surprisingly, the timetable was moved up when Greensboro’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, as well as state and local elected officials were able to work together with the NCDOT to speed things along. The project had been planned since the mid-1990s.

The taxiway bridge is now set to be finished in August 2016, four months earlier than planned, while the I-73 project is designed to be completed eight months ahead of schedule in March 2017.

The connector’s footprint runs in a north-by-northeast direction from N.C. Highway 68, which brings motorists from Interstate 40 to Bryan Parkway and east to the airport and other parts of Greensboro. The start point for the new project is just north of the interchange of N.C. 68 and Bryan Parkway and will continue toward U.S. 220 north of the city and just south of the Haw River.

Where the connector joins up with U.S. 220, it will link up with another project underway to improve U.S. 220 as it extends into Rockingham County. Construction on that roadway will be wrapped up next year.

Taxiway Bridge to Help Spur Development

While the highway portion of the project is federally funded, the taxiway bridge is being paid for by the North Carolina Mobility Fund, which was created to meet transportation needs throughout the state.

According to the NCDOT, the taxiway bridge is being built with the hope of getting industrial development going by providing runway access to 400 acres of airport land on the north side of the future I-73.

The entire project is being done on a design-build basis by a consortium of three private companies: Flatiron Constructors Inc., Blythe Development Co. and RK&K LLP.

Flatiron, a global company with a regional office near Raleigh, is the managing partner in a joint venture with Blythe, which is based in Charlotte. RK&K Engineers is the lead designer and has its headquarters in Baltimore, with offices in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Work Should Soon Ramp Up

According to Brian Smith, a resident engineer of NCDOT who is on the job site daily, work is picking up again after crews have been battling a very wet and cold winter.

“Well, there is no question that the winter weather really slowed down the grading, but the project is still on schedule right now and progress should pick up as the weather breaks,” Smith said. “Grading has been mostly completed from N.C. 68 north to Alcorn Road, and a few other areas are progressing, too.”

Smith went on to say that most of the grading and structure work will take place this summer and that the contractor hopes to begin stabilization and paving work in 2015, as well.

Crews also are getting ready to begin building interchanges at N.C. 68 and at N.C. 150/Oak Ridge Road. Smith indicated the bridge work at N.C. 68 is next on their to-do list.

“We don’t plan on closing N.C. 68, though traffic may be stopped for short periods at night in order to set bridge beams over the highway,” Smith said.

The only other bridge work that is underway for a few months, according to Smith, is for the taxiway overpass at PTI. There, crews are installing piles for the bridge footings.

Box culvert construction also is ramping up now and will continue for quite some time.

Despite the fact that the surrounding area has lots of homes and businesses, Smith said that the path of the future I-73 lies on mostly vacant land.

“There were a few homes that were relocated or removed, but almost all of that was done prior to the contract being let,” Smith said.

As part of the project, in early February the NCDOT permanently closed Regional Road at its intersection with Pleasant Ridge Road. Regional Road is a two-lane avenue just west of the airport. The portion of the road that was closed is right where the connector starts to veer north and east of N.C. 68.

A flyover ramp will be constructed at the N.C. 68 interchange just to the west of the present highway. By positioning the ramp at that spot, the design-build team eliminated the need for a planned 915-ft. (278.8 m) long, 25-ft. (7.62 m) high retaining wall. The hope is that by doing so it will reduce costs, construction time, future maintenance and environmental impact.

This particular section of I-73 is part of a much longer interstate corridor planned to run from Myrtle Beach, S.C., north to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Most of I-73 is either under construction or still on the drawing board, but the longest continuous stretch runs about 82 mi. (131.9 km) through North Carolina and along U.S. 220 between Greensboro and Ellerbe, near the South Carolina line.

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