Local News

Traffic jam costly to drivers, contractor

Posted October 2, 2009 6:54 a.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2009 4:54 p.m. EDT

— State officials fined a contractor $15,000 after nightly work on a resurfacing project on Interstate 40 continued into rush hour Friday morning, creating a 10-mile traffic jam.

Equipment malfunctions forced Rea Contracting LLC of Raleigh to close all but one lane around Aviation Parkway until 7:30 a.m. The contractor couldn't leave until completing all safety precautions, including finishing the asphalt and painting lines.

The state charged Rea Contracting $2,500 for every 15 minutes the lanes were closed past 6 a.m. The contract stipulates lanes can only be closed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

At its worst, traffic was squeezed down to one lane, and backups were reported for more than 10 miles. Drivers said the back-up added more than an hour to their commute.

"This morning, I'm like, 'Oh, I'm not going to make, I'm not going to make it," said commuter Danelle Gaddy. She said she had a report to finish by 8:30 a.m., but sympathetic co-workers let her turn it in two hours late.

Catering Works' vehicles carrying food for a breakfast in Research Triangle Park also got stuck in the traffic jam for nearly two hours.

"It's very frustrating, because in our business, timing is everything," Catering Works owner Jill Kucera. "Our staff was very stressed out."

Road workers were bedeviled by several equipment break-downs in a row, state Department of Transportation officials said.

First, an asphalt plant stopped working. After a replacement arrived, a hydraulic hose on a shuttle buggy busted, then a subcontractor's painting equipment broke down.

"(There were) not one, not two but three equipment malfunctions this morning," DOT spokesman Wally Bowman said. "We're very sorry for the inconvenience for the public traveling through there."

In the end, stuck commuters said they also felt sorry for the equipment failure-plagued road workers.

"(It's) not life or death. It's definitely understandable," Gaddy said.

"I feel bad for them," Kucera said. "I'm just glad it all worked out for us as well."

The contractor was evaluating whether it will resume work Friday night, DOT officials said.

The 6.8-mile resurfacing project from Wade Avenue to I-540 began in June and could be finished as early as December, well ahead of the the original May 2010 deadline.

That section of I-40 carries about 150,000 vehicles each day and was last resurfaced 11 years ago. The pavement has potholes and cracks and is being resurfaced to prevent worse problems in the near future, DOT officials said.

The $5.9 million project is being funded through Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, also known as GARVEE bonds. They allow the acceleration of federal funding to help finance projects sooner and avoid cost increases due to construction inflation, DOT officials said.