A muddy mess

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

COLUMBUS – Many may be wishing they owned a car wash this week as recent snow and rain has caused a muddy mess on the roads in two locations in Columbus from the US 74/I-26 interchange project.

The Bulletin has received several complaints, with some saying if other contractors were to leave a mess, they would incur fines from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) responded to the concerns this week, saying they are certainly aware of the issue and the contractor has been running two brooms three times a day to help alleviate the problem.

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NCDOT’s Communications Officer for the Western Mountain Area David Uchiyama said the contractor has dragged and refreshed the mud mat once in the morning, once before lunch and once in the afternoon.

“We are certainly aware of the red mud in the area primarily coming from an area near the cut,” Uchiyama said. “The contractor, Vecillio & Grogan, has been running two brooms continuously, three times per day.”

So far in the project, Uchiyama said the contractors have placed approximately 900 tons of rip rap along the entrance and have tried to wash down the roadways on days the temperature has allowed.

“We are doing everything possible that is practical,” Uchiyama said. “We need to continue hauling in order to continue making progress on this important project. We are doing the best we can under the given weather and conditions.”

The project is to build ramps so traffic can access US 74 from I-26 without having to exit into Columbus and travel around the roundabouts.

The project is still on schedule to be complete in August 2018, just before the World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, scheduled for mid-September 2018.

Uchiyama said the project was supposed to be 15 percent complete as of Jan. 11, and as of that date the project was at 15.19 percent complete.

The project began in late October 2017. The new interchange is estimated to cost $19 million with the construction bid awarded to Vecillio & Grogan, Inc. DBA Sharpe Brothers, out of Beckley, W.Va. last year.

The project includes clearing the area, moving dirt and rocks, and building embankments for the new roadway. A creek channel change and a 353-foot long concrete box culvert is also included in the project.

Once the project is complete, a direct merge lane from U.S. 74 West to I-26 East will be constructed to eliminate the need for drivers to navigate the two roundabouts at the Columbus exit off I-26. The project also includes building a new ramp from I-26 West to U.S. 74, which is expected to include two bridges and eight retaining walls.

The NCDOT last year said work will be performed in multiple operations, including some around-the-clock work to finish the project ahead of the World Equestrian Games. There have already been some lane closures and more are expected throughout the project.

NCDOT officials last year said drivers need to adjust their travel times, be aware of the work zone and obey all posted signs and flagging instructions.