Work on East End Connector due to start this year
N.C. Department of Transportation engineers are on track to launch construction of the long-discussed East End Connector late this year, a bit behind their initial schedule.
The department had intended select contractors for the project next month, but has delayed those decisions until September. The delay buys time for it to complete arrangements for relocating utilities in the path of the new highway, said Wally Bowman, chief engineer of DOT’s Division 5.
Bowman said he feels “pretty good” about the chances of the project moving ahead on the new schedule, which would allow contractors to start work on site in November.
He added that the schedule also means there’s no chance of the project getting caught up in the new “prioritization” process Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. General Assembly have set up for deciding the funding of major transportation process.
The change exempts from further funding review any project DOT takes bids on before July 1, 2015, he said.
“That’s the good news for us,” Bowman said. “This project is funded.”
The East End Connector will provide a direct link between the Durham Freeway and U.S. 70 for motorists traveling to and from northern Durham. Such trips now have to occur on congested surface streets like Alston Avenue.
DOT already owned a good bit of land on the prospective route of the connector and in recent months has been buying more.
The utility arrangements involve moving power lines, water and sewer pipes and other services out of the path of the 2.2-mile freeway.
That job involves the city.
City Council members are poised to approve an agreement that would provide $1.3 million for DOT and its contractors to move pipes and build sidewalks in adjoining neighborhoods.
The city has to pay for the relocation of any of its pipes that are actually in DOT-controlled right of way. The state covers the bill for relocations forced by the project of services that aren’t in the right of way, Bowman said.
Durham and other cities have the option of doing relocation work themselves, but they typically opt to have DOT’s contractors do it, compensating the agency for the cost of the effort.
Bowman said the timing and phasing of the construction will be up to the contractor. He expects the road’s builders will opt to start by putting up the bridges the new road will need, as that work can continue even in the winter.
Weather can delay roadwork if it’s “too cold to pave,” Bowman said. But “you can pour concrete, as long as you use insulating jackets, all winter long in this part of the state.”