Plans to complete the I-295 construction projects that will eventually link Fayetteville and Fort Bragg’s All American Expressway to Interstate 95 have been delayed for a year now. Although a section of the roadway is expected to be completed by the end of next year, the entire link is not expected to open until 2016, Fort Bragg officials said Monday.
Glenn Prillaman and Ray Goff of the post’s Directorate of Public Works explained that most of the I-295 project does have a schedule completion date, but that date is different and based on individual sections.
“(The project) takes multiple contractors because it’s so huge,” said Prillaman, who is the chief, Master Planning Brach, DPW.
“These dates are adjusted per budget, per construction schedule. The grading and the structures are so expensive that the funding for the paving would come later,” Goff explained.
He said the grading and structures were funded first because they are so expensive that funding for the paving of the roads has to come at a later date.
Grading is the process of clearing and smoothing the land and preparing it to become a highway.
“The structures and the grading is what you see going on out there now,” said Goff, a traffic engineer at DPW. “They’ll set it up and finish everything but the paving. The grading, structures and drainage will be done first, then the paving will be the last part.”
He said the North Carolina Department of Transportation does it that way to prevent a specific project from tying up it money.
“They can fund the grading and structure and get that started and they know the paving won’t be available to be done for a couple of years, so they use that money somewhere else. Then they roll it back into the project when they need it,” Goff said.
The overall goal of the construction project is to create an interstate loop around Fayetteville that will begin at I-95’s exit 58, travel around Fayetteville toward the Cliffdale Road and Raeford Road interchange and end past Hope Mills, near the Cumberland-Robeson County line on I-95.
“It’s sort of like when you go to Raleigh,” said Prillaman. Raleigh’s got a loop. Charlotte is working on a loop, well this is Fayetteville’s loop.”
They both agreed the Fort Bragg commuters should expect to see no changes in traffic patterns that are related to the construction project.
“We’re a year and a half away from anything opening up,” Prillaman said.
He said that despite the entire roadway project being tied together, it’s actually two different road projects.
“The section from the All American to Bragg Boulevard is the next section that is funded and it has a completion date of 2016. The proposed project from the All American Expressway to Cliffdale Road is currently unfunded, which means there is no projected completion date.
The men explained that the construction project that encompasses Murchison Road is called a Defense Access Road. According to Prillaman, it is a cost sharing endeavor between the Department of Defense and NCDOT.
“DoD provided two-thirds of the money with NCDOT providing one-third and we gave the right-of-way,” he explained. “Phase one of that is going to be completed in August, which includes widening Murchison Road to six lanes and encompasses the huge interchange between Murchison and Honeycutt Roads.”
Goff pointed out that the ramps for the new road are currently open, but the entire project will be open in August.
Prillaman pointed out that changes that will take place in the future includes the closing of Bragg Boulevard near Ryder Golf course, which prevents current traffic from traveling near Family housing and other facilities.
“It provides for physical security,” Prillaman said. “Currently, Bragg Boulevard is a state highway and it’s much too close to Family housing and Soldier facilities.
Fort Bragg Soldiers and commuters will still be able to gain access to the post from Murchison Road via Randolph Streets and Honeycutt Road ACP and from Bragg Boulevard via the Knox Street ACP, but there will no longer be direct access to Butner Road.
Phase II of the Murchison Road project will be awarded later this summer. The military construction dollars were in the 2011-2012 budgets and it’s waiting to be awarded, Prillaman said.
That will build the rest of the roadway, north of Honeycutt, to where highways 210 and 87 split in Spring Lake. Improvements will be made all the way through that area, he said.
“It has to go that far to get the traffic through there,” Goff explained. “You’ve got 60,000 troops traveling Bragg Boulevard now and you’ve got to figure out a way to get them through there. Some of the signals will be taken down and it will be sort of a ‘superstreet’ type concept. There will be a bridge over Bragg Boulevard so that the traffic traveling east and west can circulate.”
Goff added that the primary goal of the construction is clear — providing direct access to I-95 for Fort Bragg.
“One of the primary interest between the Army and NCDOT is that the Army will have a direct connection to I-95, which we have not had. We’re the only major post that doesn’t have direct access to the interstate,” he said.
“It’s going to be very nice,” Prillaman added. “The beauty is that there will be a signal on Bragg Boulevard before you get on I-295, but once you get on there, you basically do not stop again until you get to the first signal in Spring Lake. It’s going to be a lot more efficient and quicker for regional traffic.”