The outerbelt in northwest Mecklenburg won't open before Thanksgiving as hoped – and the contractor and the N.C. Department of Transportation are blaming each other for the latest delay.
The contractor, Virginia Beach-based Skanska, said it will finish the 5.5-mile segment by Friday, and that it could be opened before Thanksgiving next week. The problem, Skanska said, is that the state and the City of Charlotte are moving too slowly in installing traffic lights at exits.
“They could have started the work three weeks ago,” said Skanska spokesman Mark Hubbard. “That's the only thing that's holding us up.”
The state said that's not true.
N.C. DOT spokeswoman Jen Thompson said that even if the lights were ready, the highway isn't finished. She said Skanska still must do some striping, and there are some small punch list items that need to be completed.
Traffic lights need to be installed at Brookshire Boulevard, W.T. Harris Boulevard and N.C. 115.
She said the lights might be installed by the end of the week, but it could take a week to get power to the lights.
When asked if the state could have started work on the lights sooner, Thompson said, “in hindsight, perhaps we could have sped it up a little bit.”
But she stressed there are other problems besides the lights.
The segment – between N.C. 16 and N.C. 115 – was supposed to open in the spring of 2007.
But the state hadn't acquired all of the land for the road, and hadn't moved all the utilities so Skanska could begin construction. The N.C. DOT has tentatively said that it was to blame for 234 days of delays.
But the project has dragged on throughout the summer and fall of this year. Skanska had said it hoped to open by Halloween, but missed that deadline.
Last week Skanska said it thought it could open by Thanksgiving, but then scrapped that date this week.
Skanska said it hopes the highway can open in early December.
The Charlotte Department of Transportation said Wednesday it's working at the state's direction.