Tampa-Charlotte team bids $130.1 million to rebuild Raleigh's southern Beltline

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2013 

— Tampa-based Granite Construction Co. and RS&H, a Charlotte engineering firm, offered the apparent winning bid Tuesday for a three-year project to rebuild the southern Beltline, Raleigh’s busiest freeway.

Drivers are preparing for an epic traffic jam expected to clog an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 40/I-440 across South Raleigh. Preliminary work could start by early summer, but the first big traffic delays are not expected before fall. As many as 110,000 cars and trucks each day are spread now over four lanes in each direction on a freeway that will be squeezed into two lanes each way for months at a time.

State Department of Transportation engineers estimated that the job would cost $193 million, but Granite and RS&H Architects-Engineers-Planners Inc. offered to do the work for $130.1 million. Three other bids ranged from $149 million to $185 million.

This is a design-build project, with DOT relying on the contractor for key decisions about how to do the work, how soon it will be finished, and how to minimize the unprecedented levels of traffic congestion and misery that are expected to result.

Each of the four bidders was assigned a technical score based on the merits of its proposal, and the differences in these scores sometimes are big enough to deliver victory to a company that did not offer the lowest cash bid. In this case, two other bidders were given technical scores slightly better than the Granite team’s, but not enough to offset Granite’s low bid.

DOT is expected to award the contract to Granite-RS&H in the coming month, said Dennis Jernigan, who oversees highway construction for Wake and six neighboring counties.

After the contract is signed, Triangle commuters and businesses will learn important details about how Granite will do the work and how long it will take. The contractor will use cameras, message boards and other technology to help drivers avoid the worst problems on the Beltline and nearby roads.

“We’ve got a requirement in this contract that they provide somebody to not only manage the roadway that is being constructed, but basically to monitor the entire network,” Jernigan said. “And to make adjustments as necessary with these devices to try to route people to the less congested roads – and things of that nature, to help try and ease congestion.”

Granite has handled other big projects around the Triangle over the past decade, including an I-85 widening in Durham and part of the Triangle Expressway.

This section of the Beltline, from U.S. 1 in Cary and West Raleigh to U.S. 264 in East Raleigh, was built in the 1980s. DOT decided to take the unusual step of digging out and replacing all the concrete – 2 feet deep, eight lanes wide, 11 miles long – because of a chemical reaction that is causing the pavement to deteriorate. Engineers blame a concrete affliction called alkali-silica reaction, which makes the pavement expand and crack.

To buy time until the money was available for the big southern Beltline reconstruction project, DOT spent $8.5 million to repair pavement on the I-40 section in 2007, and $3.4 million on the I-440 section in 2009. The work included a new top layer of asphalt, to keep out the rain and slow the deterioration of the underlying concrete.

Many drivers see the fresh asphalt and say the road looks fine, but others have noticed new cracks that can run for miles.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

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