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Widening Of 15-501 Taking Years Longer Than Expected

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CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. — How long should it take to widen 13 miles of highway? State Department of Transportation crews are nearing four years of work on 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro.

The DOT has a new completion date, and it is not pleasing people who are stuck in the barrels and cones.

The work started in February 2001. The original plan was to widen the stretch of highway from two to four lanes by December 2003. Now the DOT says the job will not be done until June 2005.

"I probably won't never live to see them finish it -- not the rate they going now," driver Estelle Barbee said.

WRAL has received a lot of viewer E-mail on this project. One of the main complaints is that people who drive by are seeing equipment sitting idle and no one working.

The Department of Transportation said on a project as big as this one, scenes like those described are misleading.

"The crews have limitations," DOT engineer Ron Van Cleef said. "If, for example, they're working on soil stabilization, they may work in one area, then they may have to go up to another area. So in that first area you wouldn't see anybody."

Van Cleef said slow moving utility companies, a redesign of plans and a contractor ownership change have all slowed the work.

DOT engineers say they will answer questions about the 15-501 road widening project. You can give them a call at (919) 776-9623.

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