by Ronald Brock, project manager at S.T. Wooten
Situated between the cities of Fayetteville and Dunn in North Carolina is a notoriously busy 18-mile stretch of I-95. Traffic is constant in the area with freight trucks and tourists traveling up and down the East Coast. And while it serves as an important component to the regional transportation system, the section hasn’t seen many major updates in its 60 years of existence.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) decided it was time to coordinate a major upgrade to bring things up to modern standards and help ease traffic in the area. The department called upon the experience the S.T. Wooten team to lead a $404 million road-widening and overhaul project.
Planning and design
As the focal point of the I-95 project, S.T. Wooten is working with the NCDOT to extend the interstate with two lanes added in both directions – bringing it to eight lanes between exit 56 and exit 81. Construction on the first three-mile stretch, which was designed by the NCDOT, began in the fall of 2019. The design team at S.T. Wooten laid out the remaining 15 miles of the project, which is currently underway.
For the longer stretch of the project, construction will be happening in four major phases, and we’ll have traffic patterns shifting in the work zone with the objective to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible. Traffic will be pushed to middle lanes in the early phases of the project and then to outside lanes as things start to wrap up in the final stages of construction.
Every single bridge in the work zone – a total of 12 – will be rebuilt or replaced to accommodate the wider highway and be upgraded to modern engineering standards. Crews will install roundabouts in lieu of traffic signals at some interchanges to improve traffic flow and minimize impact to nearby properties. A new ramp will also be added to connect I-95 North to NC-295 South.
Facing the challenge
In addition to the sheer scope of the project, traffic will pose a unique hurdle for crews working on I-95. Unlike a lot of road construction projects, traffic flow will be consistent throughout the day — not just at times where people are on their work commutes. Noise and wind in the work zone will also be a factor with a lot of heavy trucks coming through the area.
S.T. Wooten are taking a number of precautions to ensure our crews and the public remain safe in the face of these types of traffic challenges. “First and foremost, our crews have to be on extra-high alert with all construction activities taking place in the work zone. As with any road construction project, we also aim to be efficient with equipment set up and breakdown, so we are getting in and out of the way quickly — keeping things opened up as much as possible for drivers,” explained Ronald Brock, project manager at S.T. Wooten.
“To help us better synch up with the traveling public, the I-95 project has been designated as a Smart Work Zone. Sensors and message boards have been placed throughout the area to detect potential travel delays and alert drives of alternate routes when necessary. Details on traffic issues and conditions are routed and shared through the NCDOT Statewide Operations Center.”
Staying on schedule with a project of this magnitude will require close communication between project managers and crews. Issues like storms and other unforeseen events are bound to come during construction. The ability to troubleshoot when these issues arise will help the team stay on track to complete the project by our four-and-a-half-year target date.
S.T. Wooten will have a couple of hundred people working on the interstate and plans to partner with about 20 subcontractors to help get the job done. “At the end of the day, the project will serve as a milestone for the team at S.T. Wooten — being one of our biggest road construction initiatives. Most importantly, it’s one we’re proud to say will have a positive, lasting impact on the community,” Brock said.