Work on a 12.6-mile stretch of new highway that will ease congestion on N.C. 11 and make for a faster route from Greenville to points south remains ahead of schedule and could be completed by November, a state engineer said.
Good weather and quick work by contractors has helped speed construction of the U.S. 264 Southwest Bypass between Greenville's medical district and the town of Ayden, Sarah Lentine, the Department of Transportation's resident engineer for Pitt County, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
"It's progressing pretty good," Lentine said. "We've had good weather lately so we're still looking at November for completion. The actual bypass may open earlier than that but we don't have a solid date."
Lentine said crews would continue working on service roads, tie-in roads, interchanges and finishing touches after the highway opens, but motorists will be able to access the highway while that work continues.
Work on the bypass was contracted to continue through June 2020. It will connect to U.S. 264 just west of town at the current interchange with the highway's northern bypass. It will join N.C. 11 south of Ayden and include additional interchanges at U.S. 13/Dickinson Avenue Extension, Forlines Road and N.C. 102.
Construction began on Aug. 31, 2016. Crews currently are working on all segments of the road, Lentine said.
"The work is everywhere because we are placing the final lift of pavement on the tie in roads and also on the bypass, putting down curb and gutter, concrete islands and installing guardrails, sign installation — that's everywhere — some finishing touches on the bridges, of course erosion control is like a continuing job, and then once we get closer to completion, we will be doing the pavement marking. So its just been all the last finishing touches every where to get to completion."
The interstate-quality highway will feature a speed limit of 70 mph. Lentine said the road will significantly reduce travel times north and south when compared to N.C. 11, where commercial and residential growth have increased traffic and stoplights.
Thousands of vehicles a day are expected to utilize the bypass, relieving N.C. 11 of much of its congestion. According to 2014 estimates, up to 20,000 vehicles per day will use the new road. That number is expected to increase to 34,000 vehicles per day by 2040.
"So, yes, we do expect that traffic to be pulled off of N.C. 11-Memorial Drive, and that would reduce the amount of traffic going through Greenville itself," Lentine said.
"Emergency vehicles will definitely have a easier route to get to (Stantonsburg Road) once they get on the bypass ... You're looking at a five minute drive instead of going through town, where your looking at maybe 10 or 15 minutes."
The design to build project — the state paid for contractors to complete the project from start to finish rather than just construction only — was budgeted for $169 million. Cost are running about 7 percent over budget, Lentine said, due to enhancements added to the project early on.
Additional costs include construction of a bridge over the bypass at Davenport Farm Road to allow for continue east-west traffic. The project also added a roundabout on N.C. 102 east of the interchange there to improve flow for traffic expected to increase due to the highway and commercial growth.
The work of late has required several lane closures on U.S. 264 coming into Greenville. Lentine said periodic closures will continue there and elsewhere until the project is completed.
Next year, DOT also is scheduled to begin work to bring U.S. 264 from Pitt to Wilson counties up to interstate standards as part of a project to establish the new I-587. That work is to begin in September 2020.
Interstate 587 will overlay the U.S. 264 freeway to its merger with U.S. 64 (Future I-87) at Zebulon.