With repaving underway since Monday, construction on the U.S. 70 project at White Oak will conclude ahead of schedule in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, motorists have already been slowly getting used to a new traffic pattern resulting from efforts to facilitate traffic into and out of White Oak Crossing.
The $4.48 million project to revamp the interchange between I-40, U.S. 70 and White Oak/Jones Sausage roads had been slated for early December completion. Now the construction and marking could be complete by the end of the first or second week of December. It had earlier slid behind schedule before catching back up.
“Ideally there would be three weeks of paving,” town engineer Tony Chalk said. “I figure there’ll be a night or two where they can’t work, say if the weather drops or the temperature drops.”
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Paving is being done at night between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights. Sunday nights are a makeup day in case of weather problems. Traffic patterns will change those nights depending on what part of the project is being paved.
“It will be a different pattern almost every night,” Chalk said.
Over the past few weeks, motorists have had to adjust during the day to a permanent new traffic pattern at the rebuilt intersection.
“It did take a while for people to get used to it,” Chalks said. “But I haven’t seen or heard of any accidents.”
Drivers coming off I-40 East and turning right onto U.S. 70 West will have to decide before reaching the Garner thoroughfare whether they want to turn left into the White Oak Crossing shopping center, go straight or turn left onto Jones Sausage Road.
The two options will have separate lights, allowing those turning left space to get across lanes of U.S. 70. They will now find three protected left-turn lanes.
The maneuver had been a problem in the past; left turners used to have to get across three lanes of traffic in just over 1,000 feet. And during busy hours, the line to turn left often overflowed its turn lane (which expanded to two lanes near the light) and stretched back beyond where the I-40 exit merged with U.S. 70.
But Chalk said the tougher adjustment has been with westbound U.S. 70 traffic that wanted to turn left onto White Oak, which has to move into turn lanes earlier.
“By the time they realized ‘that’s where I had to get over,’ they were too far,” Chalk said of some motorists. “If you waited to do it like you always had you couldn’t get over.”
The project was seen as pivotal by both town and developers in facilitating increased traffic as developers poured tens of millions of dollars into expanding the White Oak Crossing shopping complex. In addition to smoothing transitions and intersections, the work has also widened U.S. 70 to three lanes all the way to Morris Drive and Jones Sausage Road to the new shopping center north of U.S. 70 anchored by Cabela’s, which remains under construction.
Chalk said the cost, like the time line, won’t exceed expectations, and he praised the contractor for doing a good job on the town-administered project.
“I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I don’t have any reason to believe I’m going over budget,” Chalk said.