With freezing temperatures looming, completion of the final 5.7-mile stretch of Interstate 485 will be delayed until spring, state highway officials announced Friday.
The state and contractor Blythe Construction hoped to complete the final leg in northeast Mecklenburg County by the end of December. But that timetable couldn’t overcome permitting delays, and an inability to lay down asphalt and concrete in cold temperatures, N.C. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jen Thompson said.
Thompson said there are no financial penalties for Blythe, as of now. She said the problem stems back to 2010, when the state was delayed getting necessary permits from the federal government. The state had already pushed the completion date to the spring of 2015, but the contractor had hoped to stay with the earlier schedule and finish the highway early.
“Initially, when we first started work in 2010, we didn’t have the necessary permits from the Army Corp of Engineers to get started on our schedule,” Thompson said.
“Unfortunately, we cannot meet that date,” she said. “There has already been time granted and extended due to that initial delay, so there will not be any penalties assessed until next spring, if the contractor doesn’t meet the revised completion date.”
In addition, the existing on-site concrete plant near the Prosperity Church Road interchange will soon be dismantled, requiring an off-site supplier to haul materials to pave about 1,500 feet of the highway in both directions around the plant’s location.
When finished, the northeast Charlotte segment will complete the city’s outerbelt, roughly 25 years after construction began.
The final 5.7 miles runs from west of N.C. 115 to west of Interstate 85 to link Interstate 77 to I-85. The contract with Blythe is for $139.5 million.
The last segment on the outerbelt opened in early 2009. It also was delayed.
The DOT is widening the oldest section of I-485, from I-77 to Rea Road. That $83.3 million project will add a lane in each direction. The contractor, Lane Construction, is also adding enough space for the DOT to add a toll lane in each direction, possibly later this decade.
That widening is scheduled to be finished in December.
Thompson said the state believes that the contract will have all lanes open by the end of the year, though work may continue on the project through the spring. The state still wants to add another inch or so of asphalt to the project, which may be delayed due to cold temperatures.
Lane Construction is repairing old bridges on the southern section of the outerbelt and installing signs.
The state also plans to continue widening the outerbelt in south Mecklenburg. The next phase will be to add lanes from Read Road to U.S. 74. The state also plans for toll lanes for that segment of I-485. Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed.