Three common water-cooler topics of the summer: the Gulf oil spill, the World Cup and... the bumpy roads in downtown Durham, which are being fixed by the N.C. Department of Transportation, but, according to the number of complaints, not quickly enough.
The repaving of Roxboro, Mangum and Chapel Hill/Kent streets, and Lakewood Avenue, has jolted drivers with new traffic patterns, unmarked lanes and those troublesome manhole or sewer covers that jut up inches from the ground, forcing motorists to slalom among them. But the temporary inconvenience could be a small price to pay for smooth new roads—except that the project has almost reached its 120-day deadline, and as Durham county commissioners will hear on Monday, the $861,000, stimuius-funded project will probably take longer than expected to finish.
Commissioners put the item on their agenda for Monday after hearing a number of complaints. Commissioner Joe Bowser received a call from a constituent who said the fuel tank on her car ruptured as a result of driving through the construction area, according to an e-mail sent to the N.C. DOT by County Manager Mike Ruffin.
One of the major questions being posed by residents: why did the N.C. DOT contractor, Rea Contracting, remove the top surface of Roxboro and Mangum streets if it was going to be several weeks before they came back to finish the work?
The problem, according to an e-mail from N.C. DOT engineers to Ruffin (PDF), was that as soon as the contractor started removing the top 1.5 inches of asphalt, workers discovered a lot more problems, from sinkholes to parts of the road that were only 1.5 inches thick to begin with, and didn't have the proper foundations underneath. The engineers compared the situation to renovating a house—when you rip out a wall, you never know what you'll discover.
So while Lakewood Avenue and Chapel Hill/Kent streets, are currently complete, Mangum and Roxboro streets have been on hold, Resident Engineer Chad Hinnant said Thursday. The contractor is planning how its workers will fix some of the unexpected problems, and as a result, the project could go past its Sept. 16 deadline.
Under normal circumstances, the contractor could face $400 per day penalties from the N.C. DOT, but because of the unforseen issues, the company may be granted extra time, Hinnant said.
Hinnant said that motorists with viable claims of damage to the vehicle may make claims. They may contact the N.C. DOT for more information.
The Durham commissioners meet at 7 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the old county courthouse at 200 E. Main St. Travel tip for this meeting: avoid driving to downtown on Roxboro or Mangum streets, if you can help it.