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Crews Step Up Work As I-540 Expansion Nears Completion

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — As night fell on Thursday, crews along Interstate 540 were just getting their day started. They planned to be up all night, working under the lights to finish a 7 ½-mile stretch of interstate between US 1 and 64.

The job was originally scheduled for completion in April. Then it was pushed to the fall and then into the spring of 2007. But now, state officials said it could be done much sooner.

"By the end of this calendar year, December 2006," said Robert Shultes, head engineer on the project.

Shultes said the contractor agreed to speed up construction to avoid heavy fines. For each day workers fall behind, the contractor is fined $10,000 per day.

"If they are going to have a completion date, the work needs to be completed by that date," said Josh Richardson, a driver who travels the road frequently.

State officials said poor soil and environmentally sensitive land slowed the project down. But if all goes well, the new leg of I-540 will be complete before 2007.

"The sooner, the better for us," said commuter Scott Holt. "We live in on this side of town, and we work on the other side of town."

State officials said many of the delays were out of the contractor's control, so the contractor will likely fight the fines. However, the state has withheld some of the money for the project until crews get caught up.


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