PITTSBORO — Downtown’s historic traffic circle is expected to open for regular traffic by month’s end, permitting full access to beleaguered businesses which have contended with the N.C. Dept. …
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PITTSBORO — Downtown’s historic traffic circle is expected to open for regular traffic by month’s end, permitting full access to beleaguered businesses which have contended with the N.C. Dept. of Transportation’s $2.48 million project for almost five months.
The construction — designed to give the traffic circle and downtown a functional and aesthetic overhaul — will transition into “phase three,” during which road access should be uninhibited through business hours.
“Phase three is really the line to move to night work,” Town Manager Chris Kennedy told the News + Record. “But before that we will see a fair bit of progress.”
On Monday, workers from Carolina Sunrock LLC of Raleigh, which was contracted to complete the project, began work to renew water and sewer lines, “as well as move some of the electrical, some handheld boxes for the street lighting and such in that vicinity,” Kennedy said.
“And so barring any delays there, it should only take maybe a couple of weeks to get that put together,” he said, “at which point we should see things open up.”
Night work was expected to have already begun, Kennedy added, but the project “stalled” in recent weeks.
“They are further behind schedule than they were initially — we were making great progress at the beginning,” he said. “And we were several weeks ahead, but now they’ve lost some of that steam and that momentum.”
Still, the project is on track to complete before the fall deadline NCDOT originally imposed.
“We’ll probably have the project delivered in advance of the October 30 deadline,” Kennedy said. “But just in the last few weeks, despite some of the good weather, we’ve gotten to some complicating factors when you start digging stuff up and you find things and need to fix them.”
The project, which began in January, is part of a bigger plan to improve about two miles of U.S. 15-501 in Pittsboro, widening and constructing roadway and streetscape improvements between south of U.S. 64 Business and Powell Place Lane near the bypass.
In addition to that project, nine miles of U.S. Hwy. 64 that make up the Pittsboro bypass, between Exit 378 and the Haw River bridge, is undergoing enhancement. S.T. Wooten Corporation of Wilson was awarded that contract with the low bid of $2.74 million and is scheduled to complete its work by June 2022; it will include milling, resurfacing and shoulder grading.
Since the traffic circle project commenced, downtown business owners have decried the imposition. Restricting access to shops and restaurants, they say, has only exacerbated the pandemic’s economic toll. The traffic circle carries U.S. 15-501 and U.S. 64 Business travelers through the heart of Pittsboro, but trucks and through traffic have been detoured — sometimes away from businesses — and pedestrians have had to navigate the precarious construction site.
“The pandemic was already bad,” Manish Patel, who owns Neal’s Gas and Convenience, previously told the News + Record. “And now we’ve got this.”
Town staff sympathizes with downtown business owners, Kennedy says, and he’s glad to finally announce that “the end of the detours is in sight.”
“We’re trying to work with them and keep their shops open as best we can,” he said. “It’s not convenient to have two thirds of your sidewalk torn apart from your business, but we’re doing what we can to try to keep them open and get the project done.”
By start of summer — when Gov. Roy Cooper says he hopes to lift statewide pandemic restrictions — downtown businesses should be poised to welcome customers without construction interference.
“I would say conservatively,” Kennedy said, “when the calendar flips over to June, that will we will be fully into that phase and the travel circle will be back open to traffic.”
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dldolder.