Innovative process saves time and money
CHARLOTTE – Delivering on her promise to fast-track the I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop project, Gov. Perdue traveled to the Queen City as the award letter was signed for the $139.5 million contract. Shovels should be in the ground early next year. The entire project should be completed in 2015, years ahead of the schedule in place when Gov. Perdue took office.
“This is a great day for the people of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina,” Gov. Perdue said before Transportation Secretary Gene Conti signed the award letter. “It represents my commitment to do more for less – and to do it faster.”
The contract was awarded to Blythe Construction of Charlotte, whose low bid was considerably below estimates. After adding in the 15 percent construction administration cost for federal projects, the total cost will be about $160 million – $25 million less than had been anticipated.
This is the first Design-Build-Finance project for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and will accelerate the delivery of this project by five years. Under the traditional model, contracts are awarded separately for highway design and construction.
NCDOT has been using a Design-Build model, in which one contract is awarded for both functions to a contractor-engineer team. This innovative procedure allows for a project’s design, environmental permitting, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction to take place at the same time, under one contract. Allowing these steps to overlap significantly reduces overall construction time, helps the department avoid cost inflation, allows the contractor to make innovations that save taxpayers money, lessens environmental impacts and alleviates driving delays for motorists.
Design/Build/Finance – which has been used by other states, including Florida and Texas – adds the financing component. The prime contractor accepts an extended payment schedule, securing funds if necessary. For the I-485 project, Blythe will complete the project in four and a half years and North Carolina will pay the company over five and a half years.
“This innovative public-private partnership enables us to take advantage of the favorable construction market,” Secretary Conti explained at the signing ceremony. “It allows us to build essential infrastructure now, when costs are low and value is high. It also means we can put people to work when the economy needs it most.”
The contract with Blythe is for the completion of the last five miles of the Charlotte Loop. It calls for the construction of an eight-lane freeway from N.C. 115 to I-85 in northeast Charlotte. As part of the project, NCDOT will complete the interchange at N.C. 115 to accommodate all traffic movements and construct two new interchanges, connecting I-485 to Prosperity Church Road and Mallard Creek Road.
This contract is part of a three-pronged approach to meet some of Charlotte’s most critical transportation needs. Later this summer the NCDOT will award two other contracts. One will be for widening of about six miles of I-85 from four to eight lanes from the Speedway/Concord Mills Boulevard exit (Exit 49) to N.C. 73 in Cabarrus County. The estimated cost is $200 million.
The other contract will modify the existing trumpet interchange connecting I-85 to I-485 in northeast Charlotte to a fully-directional interchange. The proposed interchange will be the final link in the I-485 Charlotte Outer Loop. In addition to modifying the I-85/I-485 interchange, the project will require the replacement of the Mallard Creek Road bridge over I-85 to accommodate the on and off-ramps from the interchange. Construction is estimated at $155 million.
Gov. Perdue said that these projects, and the innovative Design-Build-Finance procedure, reflect her efforts to write “a new chapter for transportation infrastructure in North Carolina — as we move beyond the old ways of doing business.” As a result, she added, “the I-485 Outer Loop will be completed sooner, for less taxpayer money.”
More information on the project can be found at http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/CharlotteOuterLoop, and http://www.ncdot.gov/doh/preconstruct/altern/design_build/R2248E/R2248E.html.