Perdue: Cost for 2nd phase of I-85 project half what was projected

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2011

By Karissa Minn
The second phase of the Interstate 85 Corridor Improvement Project will cost half what the state thought it would and finish five months sooner, Gov. Beverly Perdue announced Thursday.
The N.C. Department of Transportation awarded a $65.5 million contract Wednesday after originally estimating the construction would cost $120 million-$130 million.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of big road projects in the last decade, but I have never, ever seen a project come in at half the cost,” Perdue said Thursday, standing at the work site for the new Yadkin River bridges. “That’s super news, not just for the people in this area, but for the people of North Carolina.”
The project is the first to be funded through the new N.C. Mobility Fund developed by Perdue to pay for regional transportation needs. Now, Perdue said, some of the money that would have paid for this project can be used to fund others across the state.
Phase two will widen 3.8 miles of I-85 from four lanes to eight lanes in Davidson County. It also will reconstruct the interchange of I-85 at Belmont Road.
The Department of Transportation awarded the contract for this phase to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc./ Austin Bridge and Road LP, a joint venture in Irving, Texas.
The joint-venture team estimates the project will create or sustain about 150 jobs, and many of those workers will be hired locally.
“This represents one of the best projects I’ve ever seen in North Carolina,” Perdue said. “The private sector comes in and they’re glad to get to work because of the economy, the public sector parcels together money through the state Department of Transportation, and engineers work aggressively to stand up a plan that will expedite construction and completion.”
Construction is expected to begin within 60 days and be completed in May 2013 — five months earlier than the Transportation Department’s deadline of the following October.
“I believe by the summer of 2013, this whole corridor will be construction free,” Perdue said. “By 2013, we’re going to be here with a big smile on.”
Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc./Austin Bridge and Road LP has set self-imposed fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per day for missing major project milestones. The contractor agreed to guarantee its work for five years instead of the required one year.
To monitor how traffic is flowing, the contractor will set up wireless remote cameras along the project area. The Department of Transportation will be able to use the images to help with incident response.
In addition, 24-hour wrecker service will be available throughout the work zone to remove disabled vehicles from the roadway.
Pat Ivey, the Transportation Department’s Division 9 Engineer, said he was “very surprised” that the bids for phase two came in as low as they did, but construction companies are competing fiercely for jobs.
“Understand that those (estimates) were put out several years ago,” Ivey said. “The economy has made a tremendous difference in the prices that we’re getting.”
The $136 million contract awarded to Flatiron-Lane for the first phase of the project also came in under the state’s estimate of $180 million.
Phase one started at the end of September and will replace several bridges, including the two spans on Interstate 85 over the Yadkin River, and widen about 3 miles of the interstate adjacent to the bridge.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.