ASHE COUNTY — As traffic has shifted on sections of U.S. 221 traveling to and from U.S. 421, progress continues to be made on the widening project with more shifts expected in coming months, according to NCDOT Division 11 Construction Engineer Trent Beaver.
As follows is a breakdown of progress on the U.S. 221 widening project as of Oct. 30:
Sections A and B — starting from the junction of U.S. 421, continuing past Idlewild Road and across South Fork New River — are clustered into one contract handled since December 2015 by James R. Vannoy & Sons of Jefferson, according to Beaver.
This section is approximately 92 percent complete. The 4.6 mile stretch of road is worth $46.4 million in estimated construction costs, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, according to Beaver.
Baldridge Bridge and the newly opened traffic ramp are included in this section. Beaver said traffic has been switched to the outside northbound and southbound lanes in order for the remaining median work to be performed.
Traffic will remain in the outside lanes until spring except for short-term traffic shifts to perform some work on the bridges, Beaver added.
“Now that traffic is in the outside lanes, motorists need to be especially aware that left turns from side roads or drives are now prohibited,” Beaver said. “All traffic will need to turn right and go to the next leftover and bulb out to make a U-Turn.”
Section C — past the bridge over South Fork New River to the N.C. 194 junction at Baldwin Road — is contracted for $53 million to Vecellio and Grogan of Beckley, West Virginia, who began work in February 2017, according to Beaver.
The 4-mile stretch of widening highway is approximately 78 percent complete and scheduled for completion by early 2021, Beaver said.
Approximately 3.2 million cubic yards of the total 3.4 million cubic yards of unclassified excavation has been performed, Beaver said. The contractor is concentrating on constructing subgrade and paving north of the Fleetwood Fire Department in an effort to substantially complete that section of the project as soon as possible, he added.
The next traffic shift on that section of highway will be from Ira Jordan Road to the end of the project and will place two-way traffic on the new southbound lanes, Beaver said.
“This shift will take place prior to Christmas, weather permitting, and will allow for work to be performed on the new northbound lanes,” Beaver said.
Section D — from N.C. 194 to the four-way stoplight in West Jefferson — was completed by Vannoy & Sons between March 2015 and January 2019. The $21.3 million contract price for Section D went over budget by about $1.3 million.
Section E — North of the four-way stoplight in West Jefferson to U.S. 221 Business and N.C. 88 in Jefferson — is 3.5 miles long with an estimated cost of $32.2 million. Due to budget issues, project letting for this section was initially delayed, but is now back on schedule with a letting date of March 2020.