The downtown Cary streetscape project on South Academy Street is two months behind schedule because inclement weather and utility problems have caused construction delays.
The $8 million project, which began in June last year, was originally expected to be done by June 1. It now is scheduled to be complete in August.
Faced with delays, town staff is expected to present options to expedite the project to the Cary Town Council at an upcoming meeting.
One of the options is closing all four access points to the intersection of Chatham and Academy streets for about two months, which would require drivers to take detours on cross streets to get to destinations along Academy Street. Closing the intersection wouldn’t go into effect until later in the project – around May.
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Even if the council decides against this option, the intersection will still be closed weeknights from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. and weekends from 6 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Sunday.
“There would be night closures and weekend closures of the intersection to be able to work in it, and that would take several months,” said Kyle Hubert, the town’s project engineer. “Both (options) have their pros and their cons, so we’re trying to work on the facts for both those options.”
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he would consider all the options but would be reluctant to do something as extreme as shutting down the intersection of Chatham and Academy for two months straight.
The town staff expects some roads will open to through traffic soon, even if the construction plan is altered, making travel easier.
Hubert said the town hopes to open Park Street, Walnut Street and Dry Avenue by the end of March. Then, the focus will turn exclusively to completing work on South Academy Street.
The project delays mostly have been because of wet weather and difficulties with existing utilities. In completing the project, Raleigh-based J.M. Thompson Co. must work around existing utilities owned by the town, PSNC Energy, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable and AT&T or work with those organizations to move them.
“We had a lot of surprises along the way,” Hubert said. “There’s (utilities) we didn’t expect to be under the ground. Some things were bigger than we thought. Some things weren’t where we thought they would be.”
For example, he said, when crews dug up storm drain pipes on Waldo Street to replace them with larger ones, they discovered utility lines had been run through the pipe. In that situation, crews would have to decide whether to work around the problem or get the utility company to move their lines.
“Sometimes it’s kind of like a puzzle, because if you move it to the wrong spot you can create another problem,” Hubert said. “There’s definitely a lot of challenges right now. Once we get above ground, once we get out of these utilities, I think things will move a lot faster.”
The town’s contract with J.M. Thompson Co. includes a $5,000-per-day penalty if it is not completed by June. But it won’t be determined which delays were outside the company’s control until the end of the project. The company would not have to pay the penalty for that time.
While some Cary residents have said they understand the benefits of the work, including an updated look and utilities, it doesn’t relieve the pressure that the months-long construction has brought to businesses. Business owners have complained about how shoppers and diners have decreased since the project began.
“We probably should really focus on the part of Academy Street from The Mayton Inn to the Cary Arts Center,” Weinbrecht said. “If we could do that, that would relieve a lot of the problems we are having, and that will help a ton.”
The town awarded a $6.01 million contract to J.M. Thompson Company to complete the project. The town has budgeted $8 million for design and construction, with some of the funds coming from the 2012 bond referendum.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon