January 2015 completion set for Highway 66 work

Jun. 11, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

The resident engineer of the Improving 66 project says construction is about 40 percent complete across Highway 66, with crews moving into the third and final phase of the project.

The completion date for the current $32.5 million phase is scheduled for January 2015, a few months after the original completion date.

“Oct. 31, 2014 was the original date, but we had to push that back a little because we’ve had to make changes in the foundations on the northbound bridge,” said Jennifer Stone, resident engineer for the project.

Phase III, from Boyds Creek Highway (SR 338) to Douglas Dam Road (SR 139), involves widening the bridge over French Broad River.

“They have substantially completed northbound bridge widening and they are making preparations to continue progress on southbound bridge widening,” Stone said.

Two of the four piers have been constructed on the southbound side, and crews are waiting until utilities are moved to construct the other two piers. Stone said crews have relocated 57 percent of electric utilities, 45 percent of water utilities, 37 percent of sewer utilities and 66 percent of gas utilities.

Grading and slope stabilization are also underway in sections, but weather has made work on the bridge difficult.

“All the rain we’ve had, the water is up high,” Stone said. “That makes work on the bridge difficult. This wet year has been hard on construction.”

Southbound traffic in the area will remain unchanged for a while. Crews are making preparations for a temporary northbound lane shift.

Motorists should expect short duration traffic stops daily throughout the project, as crews move equipment and materials in and out of the work zone.

The two-mile stretch of Phase III connects the four-mile stretch of Phase I (from Nichols Street to Boyds Creek Highway) to the 2-mile stretch of Phase II (from Interstate 40 to Douglas Dam Road).

The stretches of the first two phases widened from four lanes to six lanes and included the same utilities relocations.

The purpose of the project is to improve capacity and safety on the eight-mile corridor.

“When you improve traffic flow and safety, you can get more people through the area and to their destination faster, which improves enjoyment for people coming here and prevents idling,” Stone said.

rhargett@themountainpress.com