Both Lanes of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street Now Open in Chapel Hill Monday, August 12, 2013

Completion of first phase marks significant step forward for $4.6 million multimodal enhancement project

RALEIGH — Motorists in Chapel Hill can once again drive in both directions on N.C. 86/South Columbia Street now that the N.C. Department of Transportation has completed the first phase of the N.C. 86/South Columbia Street Enhancement Project.

Traffic on the east end of the project, between Purefoy Road and Mason Farm Road, returned to its normal two-way, two-lane traffic pattern on Saturday, three days ahead of schedule. The southbound lane was closed in May to allow crews to widen and pave this section of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street, as well as construct bike lanes and sidewalks, place new waterline and install curb and gutter. Crews were also able to significantly improve drainage in the area with the installation of new drainage pipe and catch basin boxes.

This phase of the project was originally scheduled to last for six months, with the one-way, one-lane traffic pattern remaining in place from April through September. However, NCDOT understood the concerns of the community and worked closely with the contractor and the Town of Chapel Hill to cut that time in half.

“As a result of our ongoing communication and collaboration with the contractor, the town, UNC-CH and Orange Water and Sewer Authority, we were able to complete 183 days’ worth of work in 90 days,” said NCDOT Resident Engineer Chris Kirkman.  “This was quite a feat, and Triangle Grading and Paving has done a tremendous job in managing this project. We are quite pleased to have met the needs of the community and appreciate the teamwork of all involved.”

Once complete, the N.C. 86/South Columbia Street Enhancement Project will significantly improve the safety and flow of traffic for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in southern Chapel Hill. 

“This important investment in our state’s transportation infrastructure will provide employees, students and patients with easier access to world-class education and healthcare centers,” said Division Engineer Mike Mills, who oversees NCDOT operations in Alamance, Caswell, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham counties. “We appreciate the patience of the people who go to work and school in this area, and are pleased that the project’s most significant period of impact to motorists is now behind us.”

Project Details
The $4.6 million contract was awarded to Triangle Grading & Paving Inc. of Burlington. Work on the project began in November 2012 and involves widening the 0.8-mile section of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street to include a center turn lane and bus pullouts, improving safety and traffic flow in the area. Sidewalks and bike lanes will be added to both sides of the road, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and maintaining the character of Chapel Hill. The project is expected to be complete by July 2014.

During Phase One of the project, which involved a 0.47-mile section of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street from Purefoy Road to Mason Farm Road, crews completed nearly $1.2 million worth of work in 90 days.  From May to August, crews installed the following:
  • 5,933 tons of asphalt paving, equivalent to 300 dump truck loads;
  • 3,317 linear feet of curb and gutter, equivalent to nine football fields;
  • 1,270 linear feet of drainage pipe, equivalent to 3.5 football fields, and 12 catch basin boxes;
  • 2,413 linear feet of sidewalk, equivalent to 6.5 football fields; and
  • 3,542 linear feet of new waterline, equivalent to nearly 10 football fields.
Phase Two of the project will encompass the west end of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street, from Mason Farm Road to Manning Drive. Crews will complete widening, paving and drainage activities, as well as install sidewalk and curb and gutter.  During this phase, motorists should expect intermittent lane closures between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. NCDOT reminds motorists to watch signs for construction information, stay alert and obey the posted speed limit.

Other Infrastructure Improvement Projects in Chapel Hill
The N.C. 86/South Columbia Street Enhancement Project is one of several infrastructure improvement projects currently underway in the southern portion of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. A map of the project area is attached. The Town of Chapel Hill has assembled a team to manage the projects and communicate local traffic information helpful to motorists throughout the summer. For additional information about this project and others in the area, including adjustments to Chapel Hill Transit routes, please visit the Town of Chapel Hill’s Road Construction Projects website.

For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit or follow NCDOT on Twitter at Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. To access it, type “” into the browser of your smartphone. Then, bookmark it to save for future reference. NCDOT Mobile is compatible with the iPhone, Android and some newer Blackberry phones.

(Editor’s note: Photos of the project area are located on the NCDOT Flickr page.)



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