The N.C. Department of Transportation opened bids for the project to rebuild 11.5 miles of I-40/440 and one contractor says it could do the job for almost $63 million less than NCDOT engineers estimated it would take to do the job.
The team of Granite Construction and RS&H Architects-Engineers-Planners Inc. is the apparent low bidder with a bid of $130,129,000. NCDOT engineers estimated the project cost to be $193,428,882.
NCDOT will now look at the contractor's plans to see if it can indeed do the project for that price.
If the review is successful, the bid will be awarded in three weeks.
That means we're just weeks away from the start of a three-year reconstruction project on 1-40 between US 1 and US 64/264.
Despite advance publicity about the project, it comes as a surprise to some who use the road regularly.
"I heard nothing about it and I use it everyday,'' said commuter Howard Byrd.
Because the roadbed is worn out, crews have to replace 11.5 miles of it.
"We're going from the ground up so the existing concrete comes up and new pavement gets put back in its place," said NCDOT's Victor Barbour.
The construction will force traffic into two lanes every day for the life of the project, creating what is anticipated to be considerable congestion on the interstate night and day.
To help alleviate that, NCDOT is hoping to convince 30,000 drivers a day to take alternate routes.
"A lot of the surrounding network of roads will see an increased volume and travel times anywhere are going to go up significantly," admits NCDOT construction engineer Dennis Jernigan.
Those who live near Rock Quarry Road, close to I-40 worry about the impact of overflow traffic on their neighborhood.
"It's going to make people take other routes; Crosslink or down Martin Luther King. It's going to be crazy for little while," said area resident Gerard James.
At the other end of the project, there's Tryon Road.
Tammy Couch lives in a development along Tryon and she says the road is already congested.
And she isn't looking forward to it becoming an alternate route to the interstate.
"It's going to be crazy; it'll be overwhelming. It'll be massive," Tammy predicts.