While most of the property for the N.C. 24 widening project in Sampson County has been acquired leading up to the anticipated mid-July 2013 start of construction locally, Department of Transportation and Waste Industries representatives said they are still working on some design modifications around the county landfill entrance to shore up safety concerns.
This week, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners heard an update on some revisions — and some additional changes being considered — to the N.C. 24 design to accommodate those safety concerns and approved a request by the DOT for a Right of Way Entry Agreement, which would ensure construction is not delayed while negotiations are ongoing.
In June, Waste Industries officials voiced concerns of potential safety hazards at the landfill entrance if the proposed design of the N.C. 24 widening project, including the removal of the existing deceleration lane and a small radius turnaround for the large vehicles leaving the landfill facility, were not modified.
In recent months, DOT representatives, county staff and Waste Industries officials met to discuss concerns and come to a resolution. The board was updated on that progress at its regular meeting this week.
DOT district engineer Lin Reynolds said suggestions were made to the state following talks, which were not yet finalized.
“They have installed a right-turn lane, which wouldn’t require any additional right of way there,” said Reynolds. “They did move the turnaround farther west as was suggested by Waste Industries. That particular area would require some more right of way. The design on the turning radius for a tractor trailer is 42 feet. Waste Industries was concerned they may need it a little bit wider. We’re still working with design people in Raleigh to make that a little bit wider, so that’s not set in stone yet.
“We’re not ready to say it’s a done deal,” he remarked.
Jerry Johnson, vice president for capital projects at Waste Industries, said he is pleased with the progress being made and the cooperation from Reynolds, DOT and the county, but still had a few concerns.
There is currently a deceleration lane going into the site and an acceleration leaving the site heading west. Preliminary designs from DOT proposed a right-in and right-out, with a U-turn down the roadway about 800 feet. Johnson has said that tractor trailers, at 65 feet long, would have trouble building up speed to get out of the landfill, and then would have to slow down considerably and cross two lanes of traffic to make the turnaround.
That would pose a huge danger to the truckers and other motorists, he noted.
Johnson said if property on both sides could be widened out a bit further as part of the project, a deceleration lane could be located across the street. Marion Amos Road is down the street about a tenth of a mile and the U-turn there would require a 42-foot radius turn for trucks, a major issue, Johnson has said.
“The only thing we did not get that we were looking for, other than the (modification on the) 42-foot radius, we still need a decel lane getting into the facility. That 42-foot radius, even though it’s something normal for DOT, we don’t have a normal turn lane or a normal bubble sitting out there. We’ve got up to 270 trucks that make that U-turn to go back the other way.
“We really need to get that widened some,” said Johnson said. “I think we’ll get there.”
In June, county staff recommended the board support efforts to resolve safety concerns in the existing roadway design and ensured it was evaluating an offer for county property around the entrance to ensure it was adequate. The DOT submitted a preliminary offer to acquire the county property impacted by the roadway improvements, however no offer has been approved as of yet as it is still a work in progress.
DOT Right of Way agents from American Acquisition Group LLC requested that the county consider approval of an Agreement for Right of Entry, which will allow for necessary utility work to be done before construction can commence.
Bill Miller, with American Acquisition Group LLC and DOT deputy project manager, said the document was important to ensuring the project can continue on schedule.
“This entry agreement is something that we utilize when a contract is about to be let or has been let and we have not reached an agreement on the exact amount of property that may be needed or we haven’t been able to close,” said Miller. “In this situation, the agreement specifies the area which the contractors go onto. This will be for utility relocation, which begins Oct. 1. We don’t have one from you. We are in need of that, or this will delay this contract for construction.”
County attorney Annette Chancy Starling said the county board can continue negotiations after signing the agreement. She recommended moving forward with it, and the board obliged.
“This allows us to continue to negotiate and them to go ahead and proceed with their work,” Starling said.
That work is set to begin in Sampson next summer, and Miller said most of the needed property in Sampson has been acquired. Other property is still in the works.
“We’re approximately 90 percent complete with our acquisitions and closings. We have a January end date we should meet with no problem,” said Miller. “We have a construction date now of July 13, which will be on schedule. We’re wrapping most of it right now, the only thing is a few parcels, including the county’s and Waste Industries’.”
Typically, the way the construction contract is let, it is the contractor’s option as to how they will stage the construction regarding which segments receive construction and when. Miller said it can be staggered throughout the county, so as to not have one entire road section occupied at one time.
He said the process in Sampson was going smooth leading up to next year’s expected construction.
“Most of the acquisitions acquired in Sampson County, we have an over 95 percent excellent rating from the citizens of Sampson County,” said Miller. “We do have some imminent domain, some because of title issues and some because they don’t want to sell period. We hope to work everything out.”
That includes issues with Waste Industries, which everyone said they hoped would be resolved in the near future.
“Our main issues that I have to deal with now is looking at what the pricing is on the properties and make sure it is a fair value, and that it’s going to be good for both the county and for Waste Industries — as it’s always been, it’s a partnership,” Johnson said. “And we’re working on both sides of that to assist in whatever we need to do. What we’re looking at is fair, and I think what the county is looking at is fair.
“I think everything’s going well, exactly the way we planned so far,”he continued. “I think we’re on schedule to get something done over the next 30 days or so, or less.”
As for any future segments of the N.C. 24 widening, funded sections for which extend from Cumberland County to Faircloth Freeway in Sampson, Miller said construction on the unfunded segments that continue through Sampson and to Duplin County could be a ways off — but are still on the radar.
“I think it’s in the 2030 budget,” said Miller. “That’s what it is forecasted for right now.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.