Last updated: September 26. 2013 4:59PM - 1861 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentThe N.C. 24 project in Sampson County was bid out last week, however a bid error has N.C. Department of Transportation officials considering the state's next step. Redesigns are also still being considered for the Sunset Avenue portion.
Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentThe N.C. 24 project in Sampson County was bid out last week, however a bid error has N.C. Department of Transportation officials considering the state's next step. Redesigns are also still being considered for the Sunset Avenue portion.
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A contract for Sampson segments of the N.C. 24 improvement project was bid out last week, but not awarded, after hiccups that could see the project re-advertised and bid again next month. The design remains the same for now, but N.C. Department of Transportation officials said feedback from a forum is being considered and alternatives are still being mulled.

The current proposal moves the traffic light at Sampson Crossing (main Walmart entrance) to Overland Road, with a median at Airport Road and traffic lights at SCC and Coharie Country Club, as well as a new one at Coharie and Fox Lake, as well as eliminates the traffic light at Shamrock in favor of one at Pierce Street.

Alternatives to the N.C. 24 project proposal, including leaving the traffic light at Walmart instead of moving it to Overland Road, were presented by Department of Transportation officials at a local open house Sept. 5.

“As far its design changes, nobody’s made any decision on that yet. I know there has been some additional information gathered and some comments from folks who were at the meeting we had,” Jackson Provost, Division 3 construction engineer, said Thursday. “I guess we’re still waiting on whether there are going to be any changes or not. Nothing has changed as of today. The department is looking at it but nobody’s made a decision yet.”

DOT Division 3 engineer Karen Fussell said the current design was discussed further in recent months and two alternatives put together in the wake of citizen concerns. Provost conceded he was not expecting such a large turnout at the Sept. 5 forum.

The overall N.C. 24 widening project proposes a four-lane roadway stretching for 40 miles, from Cumberland County to Interstate 40 near Warsaw, divided by a median and with interchanges constructed at major crossroads.

Segment A is entirely in Cumberland County, with Segment B beginning in Cumberland and ending at Dowdy Road in Sampson. Those contracts were awarded to Barnhill Contracting Company and work is underway.

Segments C and D, both entirely in Sampson, were expected to be bid as a single “cluster” project. Segment C extends from Dowdy Road to Mitchell Loop Road, and Segment D includes the section from Mitchell Loop Road along Sunset Avenue to the U.S. 421/701 Bypass (Faircloth Freeway). Two segments extending from Clinton to Warsaw have not been funded.

The four funded sections are expected to be completed by March 2017.

Provost said the Segment C and D projects were bid out Sept. 17, but may have to be bid again.

“Barnhill was the low bid, but they had a bid error, so they have backed out,” said Provost. “So the department is looking at the next option.”

With this project letting, contractors had the option of bidding as a cluster project — Segments C and D together — or one of the two individual segments. One contractor bid individually on Segment C, but no contractor submitted an individual bid for Segment D, Provost noted.

“That kind of threw a monkey wrench in the system. We may end up re-advertising the D section,” Provost noted. “The final decision has not been made. We don’t have a contractor yet. We may have a contractor for half of it, but we may have to re-bid. I talked to our folks yesterday and the final decision hadn’t been made as to how it’s going to be awarded.”

Provost said earlier this month that, while a decision as to design changes had not been made either way, it was likely “too late in the game” to redesign the whole project.

The two alternatives leave the majority of the N.C. 24 project proposal intact, however one option would leave the traffic light at Sampson Crossing and put one up at Airport Road, with none at Overland. The second option would leave the light at Overland, as currently planned, but also implement the opportunity for a U-turn across from easternmost entrance to the Walmart shopping center.

However, Provost clarified Thursday that design changes do not necessarily have to precede the bidding of a project. While contractors and DOT officials try to avoid significant modifications, and any change orders they would bring, it is possible to tinker with the design during construction.

“The department always has options to plan changes at anytime during the project,” Provost remarked. “It may require some additional work or additional line items we have to negotiate with the contractor after the fact. We’ve always got options to make changes and tweak the plans after (contractors) some out to make sure they work. The goal is to try not to have any more changes than you have to, but sometimes it’s inevitable.”

Some have expressed their desire to see the traffic light into the Sampson Crossing stay where it is. However, Provost said the state would need to see some cooperation between those property owners around Walmart to make the current signal work better for the whole community. Fussell said the state normally attempts to set up major intersections at state roads.

The N.C. 24 project could be re-bid as early as the third Tuesday of October. That award could be for one segment or the two clustered segments. And they may have modified designs. Many aspects of the project are still in the air, DOT officials said.

“I think the folks with our contract office in Raleigh are trying to figure out what to do,” said Provost. “We may have a contractor shortly or we may have to re-advertise the whole thing. It would probably add another month to the process.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.

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