North Carolina's Knightdale Bypass
Roughly 11-mi. bypass project will relieve congested U.S. 64 near Raleigh
A pair of contracting teams is earning rave reviews for their
performances on roughly $170 million of work building the
new Knightdale Bypass near Raleigh, N.C., a much-needed project
aimed at relieving congestion on crowded U.S. Highway 64.
With fast-tracked schedules facing both contractors - joint
venture firm North Carolina Constructors and Vecellio & Grogan
of Beckley, W.Va. - it's notable to hear North Carolina Department
of Transportation officials sing their collective praises
just over one year into the jobs.
Steve Leonard, resident engineer with NCDOT in Raleigh, used
phrases such as "thoroughly impressed" and "nothing but good
things to say" when discussing the work of the two firms.
North Carolina Constructors, a joint venture of HBG Flatiron,
Longmont, Colo., and Lane Construction Co. of Meriden, Conn.,
has the biggest share of the Knightdale Bypass project, which
is being built almost entirely in open country. NCC's $131
million contract covers approximately 9.6 mi. of the new six-lane
freeway and includes 23 bridge structures located at 15 separate
sites - several of which are highly regulated wetlands areas.
In addition to being one of NCDOT's largest current contracts,
it's also one of the state's first and biggest design-build
Vecellio & Grogan's $41 million contract - awarded through
the traditional design-bid-build scenario - covers the final,
completing piece of the new Knightdale Bypass. The roughly
2 mi. worth of work includes the construction of two interchanges
and some flyover structures that will tie the new bypass into
NCC moving fast
While the interchange/flyover contract had been designed
and was ready to be let to bid, the design of essentially
three other segments was lagging. In order to move forward
on the entire bypass project at once, NCDOT grouped the three
remaining sections together and sought design-build proposals.
The NCC joint venture - a 60/40 split between HBG Flatiron
and Lane, with HBG Flatiron serving as the lead firm - won
that competition with the lowest price and the most aggressive
schedule, $131 million worth of work completed in approximately
"I was skeptical when the contract came out," said NCDOT's
Leonard. "But I have been thoroughly impressed by their effort,
their organizational skills, their construction savvy and
their progress. Their progress is unbelievable. They've got
80 to 90 percent of those bridges under construction. It's
NCC started work in July 2002, with a completion target of
December 2004 - about seven months ahead of NCDOT's estimated
date. Approximately one year into construction, the joint
venture had reached an estimated 39 percent completion, with
roughly 18 months to go.
Paul K. Newman, NCC project manager, said the team's goal
is to finish building the structures by the end of the year.
"We're also continuing to do the cut and fills," he added.
"Glover Construction [of Pleasant Hill, N.C.] is doing a good
job [on this work]. We've been hampered by the weather over
the past several months - way-above-normal rain.
"It's not that it rains every day, but when we get a rain
event it takes us two or three days to recover from it, due
to the [red clay] soils," he continued. "The stuff just doesn't
drain and it takes a day or two for it to recover and to be
able to get back on it."
Newman said Glover wasn't able to get back to work until
the beginning of June, and then lost 12 workdays that month.
"Knock on wood we appear to be out of the woods," he added.
"[Glover's] increased his work and his equipment for us, and
he's making some good strides."
Glover's scope of work includes approximately 2.85 million
cu. meters of dirt and rock excavation.
The rain hasn't impacted the bridges as much, though it
often required the rebuilding of access roads. Still, crews
have mostly been able to keep working and are roughly 45 percent
complete. Nine of the 15 bridge sites feature structural steel
structures, and six will be built with precast concrete girders.
Of those, Newman said the two "toughest work sites" were
the 662-ft.-long Bridge 2 over Crabtree Creek and the 1,575-ft.-long
Bridge 4 over the Neuse River. Both travel over wetlands areas
and required the erection of temporary work structures to
position the cranes and other equipment necessary to build
the bridges. Both structures were over 50 percent complete.
NCC plans to complete most of the bridge structures before
winter hits, with the cut-and-fill operation continuing until
Joint venture partner Lane Construction will lead the fast-tracked
concrete paving effort. The new mainline will consist of 290-mm-thick
concrete pavement resting on a 75-mm permeable asphalt drainage
layer, with 25 mm of asphalt concrete surface under that,
all sitting on top of 200 mm of either lime- or cement-treated
subbase. Work on this part of the project begins late this
As for the venture into design-build with NCDOT, it's been
positive to date, said Newman, who recently spent six years
on the "Big Dig" project in Boston.
"From the environment I came from [on the Big Dig], it's
just like night and day," he said. "Instead of people putting
roadblocks in front of you, it's full speed ahead. The DOT
has done a good job of monitoring but not hindering."
The state is intent on making its foray into design-build
a success, and this project matters a lot towards that end.
"It's huge for the department," Leonard said of NCC's contract.
"We want this project to go well. We want our design-build
to go well."
Vecellio & Grogan's contract
Vecellio & Grogan began its work on its $41 million interchange
and flyover section at approximately the same time, July 2002.
And like NCC's contract, Vecellio & Grogan's timetable is
to complete its project by December 2004. The contractor's
work will connect the new Knightdale Bypass through an interchange
leading to I-440, and another interchange at New Hope Road.
These structures will be a mix of concrete and structural
In addition to building these elevated structures, Vecellio
& Grogan's contract includes approximately 1 million cu. meters
of dirt excavation. The contractor is self-performing this
To date, one of the biggest challenges on the project has
been the extensive utility line relocations. A 60-in. city
of Raleigh sewer main that meandered through the project had
to be relocated south of the new alignment, outside of the
right-of-way, in an easement. "That's been a real challenge,"
said NCDOT's Leonard. "There was about a 70-ft. rock cut over
that sewer line to get through there. That was a pretty big
challenge to manipulate that dirt and get it in. But they've
got an excellent sub - Park Construction's doing that."
The relocated line will actually be dual 60-in. lines. Excavating
for the new sewer main proved somewhat tricky because Park
Construction had to keep any hauling over the existing line
to a minimum.
Also, like NCC, Vecellio & Grogan has been hampered by the
wet, rainy conditions, yet remains on schedule.
"At this time, we're there [on schedule]," Leonard said.
"We've had a lot of rain, but they've been able to move forward.
The bridge work, especially, was not hindered too bad by that."
Vecellio & Grogan is also self-performing the majority of
the bridge work.
"The bridge crews are working five days a week, maybe six,"
Leonard added. "And the grading folks have actually taken
some Saturdays off."
Of Vecellio & Grogan's overall effort, Leonard's assessment
was similar to that of NCC.
"It's been a real good effort," he said. "They've been a
real good contractor to work with, very proactive. I don't
have anything but good things to say about them."