U.S. 221 Widening Project in Watauga/Ashe Counties Underway With Vannoy Construction

Published Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 1:25 pm

By Jesse Wood

While U.S. 321 widening project in Blowing Rock has been taking place since 2012, there is another major highway widening project in the High Country just getting underway.

On March 30, Vannoy Construction began work on the U.S. 221 widening project that is 16.1 miles long that takes place from U.S. 421 in Deep Gap to N.C. 88 in Jefferson. The project spans Watauga and Ashe counties.

Trent Beaver, N.C. Department of Transportation construction engineer for Division 11, said that the project, which is estimated to cost north of $150 million, will widen U.S. 221 to four lanes (with median) in five separate sections:

  • A – U.S. 421 in Deep Gap to Idlewild Road (2.8 miles)
  • B – Idlewild Road to just north of the South Fork of the New River (1.8 miles)
  • C – just north of South Fork of the New River to just north of N.C. 194 (4 miles)
  • D – just north of N.C. 194 to just north of N.C. 163 (4 miles)
  • E – N.C. 163 to U.S. 221 Business/ N.C. 88 (3.5 miles)

The section that Vannoy Construction began late last month is Section D, the four-mile stretch from about N.C. 194 to N.C. 163. While each widened section varies, Section D will include a 36-foot-wide depressed grassed median and eight-foot wide shoulder (four feet of which are paved and four feet grassed).

221 MapVannoy’s bid amount for Section D came in at about $21.4 million and the completion date is Sept. 1, 2018. Vannoy Construction recently advertised job openings for equipment operators, laborers and flaggers for a 3 1/2-year project, which would be Section D.

The next sections to open to the bidding process are sections A and B in September of this year. Section C will let in Feb. 2017, and Section E will let in 2019. The overall completion of the widening project is several years away.

As for how this will impact traffic?

“We’ll maintain instant traffic. We may have flagging operations and that kind of thing that motorists need to be aware of and pay attention to signs and be alert, but for the most part we’ll maintain existing traffic along existing highways,” Beaver said, adding that there will be a detour at the N.C. 163 intersection and lane switching throughout the construction of this initial section.

In an environmental assessment that the Federal Highway Administration and the NCDOT released in 2012, the project is estimated to cost $154,710,928, which includes $33,997,900 for right-of-way acquisition, $2,313,028 for utility relocation, and $118,400,000 for construction.

The purpose of the project is to upgrade the existing roadway to a multi-lane facility to increase capacity, alleviate congestion, improve traffic operations and reduce the rate of traffic crashes.

The project will also result with the displacement of about 70 homes, 33 businesses and two churches, according to the environmental assessment.

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