ASHE COUNTY — The widening of U.S. 221 is still on track, even with the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic still ongoing.

According to information from the N.C. Department of Transportation, recent drops in traffic volume, contributed to the pandemic, has caused a shortfall of at least $300 million for the department’s fiscal year, ending June 30. Due to the budgetary concerns, all but about 50 major projects scheduled to start in the next 12 months have been delayed, the release stated.

Construction projects under way, such as the widening of U.S. 221, have not been affected.

As follows is a breakdown of progress on the U.S. 221 widening project as of April 27:

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.

The section is approximately 98 percent complete, according to NCDOT Division 11 Construction Engineer Trent Beaver. Worth $46.4 million on estimated construction costs, the contractor hopes to be placing the final layer of asphalt and installing signs in June, depending on the weather, Beaver said.

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.

Beaver said the section is approximately 92 percent complete.

“The contractor is currently concentrating on getting all lanes open on the section of the project north of Watertank Road,” Beaver said. “Weather dependent, the entire project should be complete later this year.”

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 — was let March 17 with construction scheduled to begin July 1. James R. Vannoy & Sons Construction was awarded the contract in the amount of $27.4 million.

The contract completion date has been set at Nov. 11, 2024. Beaver noted the construction on Section E should be “very similar” to Section D.

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