FAYETTEVILLE — A project to widen Interstate 95 from Exit 22 in Lumberton to a point near Hope Mills has been pushed back two years.
The initial plan was to start work on widening the 18-mile stretch of interstate to eight lanes in 2026, said Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation. The start time now is rescheduled for 2028.
The delay was caused by the adoption this past week of DOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program, he said. The program is a 10-year plan that schedules and budgets all transportation improvement projects during the 10 years of the plan. The program adopted this past week covers 2020 through 2029.
“We had to balance everything in the 10-year plan, and we had to be able to afford everything in the 10-year plan,” Barksdale said.
The 10-year plan is reviewed, updated and adopted every two years, he said. When a new plan is adopted in 2021, the Lumberton to Hope Mills widening project could be accelerated.
In the meantime, another I-95 widening project is proceeding.
The state DOT has awarded a $404 million contract to S.T. Wooten Corp. of Wilson to widen a 15-mile section I-95 from Exit 56 in Eastover to Exit 71, which is outside Dunn in Harnett County, Barksdale said. The federal government kicked in a $147 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant, which allowed DOT to accelerate the project to widen and upgrade a section of I-95 that was built nearly 60 years ago.
The grant was earmarked for widening I-95 and upgrading sections of U.S. 70 to future Interstate 42 in eastern North Carolina, according to the DOT. The grant also will pay for the installation of 300 miles of fiber optic cable along both highways to expand access to broadband and telecommunication access.
Nearly every interchange and bridge must be rebuilt to accommodate the wider highway, and meet modern design standards for higher overpasses, wider paved shoulders and longer ramps to enter the freeway.
“This is a massive improvement project, and one that is sorely needed,” said Grady Hunt, who represents the Fayetteville area for the N.C. Board of Transportation. “Modernizing the East Coast’s main highway is an important, long-term goal for our state.”
Designs have yet to be created for the bulk of the widening project, Barksdale said. That should take about one year, and then construction should begin. The project is expected to take about four years to complete.
Motorists should see work on exits 70 and 71 this fall, he said. That’s because DOT already has designs to improve those exits.
The widening project from Exit 22 to Hope Mills was unveiled in Lumberton on July 22. During the community meeting, DOT representatives spoke of how the project calls for every bridge to be replaced and every interchange upgraded to 21st century standards. The new bridges are to be taller and wider. Four of the six exits along the 18-mile stretch are to get roundabouts on either side of I-95. Exit 22, which recently was upgraded, will not be changed.
The road surface and culverts are to be upgraded to meet 100-year flood standards.
Highlights of the Exit 56 to Exit 71 project include:
— Pending the final design, 11 bridges will be replaced, including I-95 over the Black River.
— Service roads would be realigned to allow for I-95 widening and to meet current standards.
— Roundabouts would be added at some interchanges to minimize impacts to nearby properties and to improve safety and traffic flow.
— At Exit 58 near Fayetteville, a ramp will be built to connect I-95 North traffic going to N.C. 295 South.
The state DOT plans to award a construction contract in July 2020 to widen and modernize I-95 from exit 71 to exit 81, which is the I-40 interchange in Benson. More information can be found on the NCDOT web site.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]