Work on Charlotte outerbelt among key road projects ahead


Construction on the last segment of Interstate 485 will begin later this year – the first piece of nearly $1.3 billion in highway projects planned for the Charlotte area early this decade.

The Charlotte Observer reports by 2011, the N.C. Department of Transportation also plans to be widening I-85 in Cabarrus County, constructing the Monroe Bypass/Connector in Union County and rebuilding the I-85 Yadkin River bridge.

“This is the first time (the state) has had this much dollar value in one place at one time,” said Barry Moose, a division engineer with the N.C. DOT who oversees the Charlotte area.

Gov. Bev Perdue held a news conference to announce that the DOT had selected Blythe Construction of Charlotte for a $139.5 million contract to build an eight-lane stretch of I-485 in northeast Charlotte. That segment will run from N.C. 115 to a planned interchange at I-85, south of Concord Mills. The section is expected to open in early 2015.

The other planned projects include: A contract to build an interchange for I-485 and I-85 south of Concord Mills. The DOT recently changed the proposed design from a low-speed, cloverleaf interchange to a high-speed interchange with several layers of bridges. The new design will be similar to the interchange at I-77 and I-485 in south Charlotte.

That contract, expected to be worth $155 million, will be awarded later this year. The winning firm will design and build the interchange. Moose said the interchange will open at the same time as Blythe’s segment of the outerbelt, in 2015. The DOT is also planning to widen I-85 from Bruton Smith Boulevard to N.C. 73 to eight lanes total. That $150 million contract will be awarded in September.

The 55-year-old Yadkin River bridge northeast of Salisbury doesn’t have shoulders and is considered “structurally deficient” by the federal government. It is being replaced with an eight-lane bridge. The project was originally budgeted for $180 million, but the DOT in April awarded a contract to the joint-venture company of Flatiron-Lane for $136 million. The new bridge is expected to be open by 2013. Gov. Perdue is hoping to pay for the Yadkin project and other large infrastructure projects through a proposed “Mobility Fund” that must be approved by the General Assembly.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority is planning to award a contract by December for the $800 million Monroe Connector/Bypass, a toll road that will allow motorists to bypass the heavily congested U.S. 74 in Union County. The 20-mile project could be finished by 2014.

Blythe was the lowest of four bidders for the I-485 project. Because of the recession, all bids came in under the DOT’s proposed budget for the project. Conti said the project will cost about $25 million less than the DOT projected.

The DOT is currently doing a cost-benefit analysis of proposed loop projects statewide, including other outerbelt proposals in Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville and Wilmington.

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