Multi-Phase Fayetteville Outer Loop Makes Progress
Creating Connections: North Carolina DOT Provides Link from Fort Bragg to I-95 with Fayetteville Outer Loop
The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) multiphase, 39-mile, $1 billion Fayetteville Outer Loop will connect major routes around the city, reduce traffic on local streets and provide a direct connection to Fort Bragg from Interstate 95.
“Several years ago, the state of North Carolina created a special fund in which to build highway loops, or bypasses, around all of the state’s major cities,” says Andrew Barksdale, a Public Relations Officer for the NCDOT. “This includes Fayetteville, which is the state’s sixth-largest city with about 208,000 residents.”
Planning for the loop began during the 1980s and was identified to be part of the interstate system in 1989. When complete, in 2024, it will be known as Interstate 295. At that time, it will have four lanes, with a 65 mph speed limit, and 15 interchanges.
Average daily traffic counts range from 20,000 vehicles per day to 29,000 vehicles per day, depending on the exit. The department expects the new Outer Loop, once complete, will be able to handle 70,000 vehicles per day by 2034.
“One catalyst for building the Outer Loop was to provide direct interstate access for Fort Bragg, which is the largest military installation in the U.S. with more than 50,000 active-duty soldiers assigned,” Barksdale explains.
Before the first segments of the Outer Loop opened in 2003 and 2005, access to Fort Bragg required driving equipment and vehicles through Fayetteville, creating traffic congestion. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, NCDOT accelerated the project. The U.S. Army closed the base to the public and announced the planned closure of a portion of Bragg Boulevard, which ran through the post and connected northern Fayetteville with the town of Spring Lake.
The third Outer Loop phase, which opened in 2014, at the Bragg Boulevard and Murchison Road exits allowed the department to reroute local traffic off of Bragg Boulevard and onto a widened Murchison Road.
“Simply put, people now avoid Bragg Boulevard through Fort Bragg and instead use Murchison Road and opened sections of I-295 to travel between Fayetteville and points north, such as Sanford and Greensboro,” Barksdale says.
The first two segments opened in 2003 and 2005. The first segment from Ramsey Street to River Road created a new route over the Cape Fear River.
Additional sections opened during a three-phase, $146 million project from 2014 to 2016. The first 1.7-mile section ran from Murchison Road to Bragg Boulevard. The second section, from Murchison Road to Ramsey Street, was completed in August 2016, and the third, from Bragg Boulevard to All American Freeway, opened in December 2016.
Three more segments are under construction.
Section CB, 6.7 miles from All American Freeway to Cliffdale Road, is expected to open in fall of 2019. After the department awarded this $125.4 million contract in 2014 to Conti Enterprises of Edison, New Jersey, Fort Bragg requested better access on its military installation around the new highway.
“NCDOT’s Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon approved a design change to build a tunnel underneath the new highway to allow military vehicles to travel better on the installation,” Barksdale explained. “The tunnel cost about $2 million.”
The section CA, from Cliffdale Road to U.S. 401/Raeford Road, was let as a design-build project. Barnhill Contracting Co. of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Sanford Contractors of Sanford, North Carolina; and HDR Engineering, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, a joint venture, received the $85.2 million contract in June 2016 for the 3.1-mile stretch, which is under construction. The project includes replacing the Lake Rim Runoff Bridge over Bones Creek on Old Raeford Road. The department anticipates completion in 2022.
“NCDOT uses the design-build process to complete projects faster and save taxpayer money through innovative approaches to design and construction,” Barksdale reports. “This method allows the design, environmental permitting, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction to take place under one contract, which reduces construction time, lowers overall costs and lessens environmental impacts. The various engineers and consultants can better collaborate on developing the best design and construction process and timelines to deliver the project.”
Also let as a design-build was section A, from Camden Road to I-95. The $129.7 million design-build contract was awarded to a joint venture among Balfour Beatty Infrastructure of Wilmington, North Carolina; Branch Civil of Cary, North Carolina; and STV of New York.
The contractors in section A are using a conveyor belt system to transfer borrow material from a borrow site to the work site. The conveyor belt system will be about 130 feet long and maintain a 20-foot vertical clearance over I-95.
Crews installed steel piles on either side of I-95 near the Robeson-Cumberland county border for the conveyor belt. Then beams were installed over the interstate for the conveyor belt to operate on. Crews stopped traffic for about 15 minutes at a time to install the beams.
“This system will save time, lessen travel impacts to the public and keep the dump trucks off local roads,” Barksdale says. “About half of the fill material we need for this section of I-295 will be transferred via this conveyor belt system. This system will eliminate the need for 109,000 dump trucks to travel on public roads to bring the fill material.”
Since the Outer Loop is being built in a new location, traffic control has not presented problems. At intersections, traffic has been maintained. Closures have occurred to set bridge girders over an existing roadway.
“One challenge for the general contractors is Fort Bragg’s strict regulations regarding access to the post,” Barksdale says. “Workers must pass a background check in order to enter Fort Bragg. Fortunately, our general contractors knew this would be an issue when hiring subcontractors, so they were prepared. Overall, they have been able to find the workers they need that can access the work site onto Fort Bragg, and projects were not affected by this issue.”
The contractors are using a GPS guidance system.
“The 3-D designs of the road are drawn up electronically, and that information with GPS coordinates is then available to the drivers of motor-graders, bulldozers and other equipment,” Barksdale says. “They then follow those coordinates while driving to grade and do other road work. The drivers can know exactly where they are on the project and what they need to do.”
A fourth segment, from U.S. 401/Raeford Road to Camden Road is under development and scheduled for bidding in summer 2020 and construction to start in fall 2020.
“We are really proud that this project will improve mobility and safety in the region and around Fayetteville,” Barksdale concludes. “It’s already changing traffic patterns in town, and it is alleviating congestion on some major routes in Fayetteville. The Outer Loop will also open new areas to commercial and residential development, especially at the new interchanges.”