Smithfield’s Venture Drive is finally getting its makeover, and the town is saving some money.
After bids to completely redo the road came in significantly over budget, the Smithfield Town Council chose to go a different route. Instead of the traditional rebuilding method, the town will use a technique called full depth-reclamation, which recycles old broken road and fuses it with concrete and paving chemicals, resulting in a project cost nearly $100,000 under the town’s $700,000 budget.
On Tuesday night, Smithfield awarded the project to Turner Asphalt, which submitted the low bid of $603,592. Public works director Lenny Branch said the town sent out 14 bid packets and only got two back.
At the town’s February meeting, council members reviewed four bids for the total reconstruction option, with the highest bid coming in nearly twice the town’s budget. Before going ahead with full-depth reclamation, which Town Manager Michael Scott said could cut costs 20-30 percent, the council wanted a primer on the somewhat newer paving method.
Engineer Conrad Harris of GeoTechnologies, the firm that evaluated Venture Drives and made recommendations, said full-depth reclamation, or FDR, would be cheaper and faster than a full-scale reconstruction. Harris said the woes of Venture Drive, including significant cracking, stem mostly from a soft and potentially improperly done base. He also faulted heavy truck traffic going to and from Interstate 95.
“I would say it’s mostly the subgrade support,” Harris said.
Poor soils are the main reason costs balloon when the town talks about redoing Venture Drive the old-fashioned way, Harris said. If it goes with a traditional reconstruction, those soft, wet soils would need to be hauled out and a better soil trucked in, adding significantly to the project’s costs. With FDR, Harris told the council, the base will essentially be reinforced with concrete. Doing a traditional reconstruction would also tie up Venture Drive longer, likely disrupting one of the main connecting routes connecting Bright Leaf Boulevard to the outlet center.
“It’s more labor and more time,” Harris said. “There are a fair number of businesses with single entrances along Venture Drive. There could be a lot of down time.”
With all signs pointing to FDR being the better option for the long-suffering road, Smithfield could have considered it first. But town leaders were wary of a method that Smithfield hadn’t used before. Council members said now that Venture Drive is close to getting fixed, they just want to see it done right.
“I just want to make sure when we fix it, we’re doing it the right way,” Councilman Emery Ashley said.
Speaking during the meeting’s public comment section, William Ragsdale told the council that fixing the road the right way means more than just building it better, it means protecting it. Ragsdale argued that while the soils might be swampy and poorly drained, Venture Drive was doomed when the town took it over and didn’t restrict truck traffic.
“If the town had put a 35,000-pound weight limit, you wouldn’t be having these problems with the road,” Ragsdale said, adding that five years ago he spent a day watching traffic on Venture Drive, counting over 100 dump trucks. “One dump truck carrying 70,000 pounds will do more damage than 10,000 cars will do.”
Since the project came in under budget, Scott suggested the town pave more of the road while crews are already out there. The town council decided to spend an extra $60,000 to also resurface the road from the railroad tracks to where Peedin Road turns into Venture Drive.