The work is quite an accomplishment, because it still had the features of a highway half-a-century-old only five years ago. Before construction started in 1999, there hadn't been a major overhaul of the interstate since 1950.
Back in 1999, the Department of Transportation said they'd finish widening and improving the road from Highway 70 to Highway 15-501 by the end of 2006. Now, they're saying they can finish by mid-August.
“This has been a very complex, difficult project,” said DOT engineer Aaron Earwood. “However, we're finishing it basically on time. The whole corridor was projected to be completed this year, and we are meeting that time.”
All travel lanes open to traffic by mid-August, but there will still be crews working on I-85 into 2007. Engineers say that work will have little traffic impact.
“Yes, minimal impact, things like finishing sidewalks, dressing up the shoulders, just cleaning up,” said Earwood.
It's been years of headaches for drivers and economic heartache for business owners. The ramps leading to the Durham Shoney's were shut down several times for weeks at a time.
“With the exits being closed, we lost a lot of business,” said restaurant manager Arthur Pastuszka. “But now that they've opened them back up, business has started going back. We're looking forward to having everything back to normal.”
After seven years, the barrels, cones and crews will finally be gone from I-85. Once it's finished, the next project on the list will be widening Highway 15-501 from Garrett Road to I-40.
Also, a section of I-95 is about to get a facelift. The state signed off on plans to repave 17 miles from Highway 301 south to the county line. Work will start this month, and will take at least a year.