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DOT Crews Work To Fix Rough Patch Of I-40 In Durham County

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Starting Friday night, motorists on Interstate 40 will encounter the first road closures stemming from a bad paving job.

About 11 miles of the road will eventually need to be repaired from 15-501 to the Durham Freeway. First, the contractor will focus on the most-crumbling part of the road, which is near the N.C. 55 exit. Various lanes will be closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.

"It feels like I have flat tires, and I drive back and forth," said taxi driver Cleo Jules. "I've got to get a new alignment every couple of weeks."

Even though it will be fixed, the DOT and the contractor still disagree over who is to blame for the bad pavement and who should pay to fix it.

Engineers tentatively have traced the problem to joints that were not cut deeply enough into the top pavement layer. Those joints allow concrete to expand in hot weather and contract in cold weather.

In two letters dated Oct. 19., Granite Construction and the president of a subcontractor that worked on the project both said DOT failed to put any orders regarding the joints' depth in writing. They said that was necessary to maintain communication and make sure contractors receive fair payment for their work.

The state disputes that assessment.

"It is the department's position that the issue was discussed, guidance and direction was provided, and neither Granite nor its subcontractors expressed concern over additional time or money," wrote DOT engineer Phillip Johnson. "Therefore, there was no need" for a written agreement.

State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett has ordered DOT to conduct an internal investigation of how it handled the project.

A report prepared by Applied Pavement Technology Inc., an Illinois-based consultant, said DOT engineers failed to tell the project contractor how to properly install the concrete, while inspectors also failed to properly examine the work.

The first phase should be finished by Thanksgiving.

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