Construction could start as early as the fall

The planning is nearly complete and construction is likely only months away on a project that state and Havelock officials believe will mean a safer and quicker commute to Cherry Point.

The Havelock Board of Commissioners took steps during a Monday night meeting to clear the way for construction on the Slocum Flyover interchange later this fall.

“This is actually going to happen,” Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said. “You never know with a project that costs multiple millions of dollars if it’s actually going to happen. But then when you get to the point where it’s actually going to start, it’s pretty exciting. It’s a heck of a payoff.”

Lewis said construction would start before the end of the year, possibly as early as the fall, pending N.C. Department of Transportation approval of contracts for the project.

The project is designed to alleviate traffic congestion, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours, along U.S. 70 at Slocum Road, where many workers and residents enter Cherry Point through the Slocum Gate. The current U.S. 70-Slocum Road intersection has been the location of frequent vehicle crashes in Havelock, despite a traffic signal.

The project involves the construction of a bridge that will route eastbound vehicles up and over westbound lanes of U.S. 70 for easier access to Cherry Point.

Another aspect of the project is a road that would link MacDonald Downs to Tucker Creek as well as construction of a sidewalk that would allow MacDonald Downs middle schoolers to potentially walk or ride bikes to nearby Tucker Creek Middle School.

However, the project also makes changes to the intersection of U.S. 70 and Pine Grove Road in front of the fire station, where some turn movements will be restricted. Drivers will no longer be able to completely cross U.S. 70 at the intersection and some may have to make U-turns on U.S. 70 to access the Tucker Creek and Hickman Hills neighborhoods depending on direction of travel.

Lewis said the project, which DOT initially estimated would cost about $20 million, is all about safety.

“It’s going to be a nice solution, not just for the congestion on and off the base, but also when you start looking at better connectivity between MacDonald Downs and Tucker Creek, and I think an overall safer intersection for everyone going to and from their homes or to and from the middle school,” he said. “It’s a much better situation.”

Construction could be finished by the spring of 2019.

“Once they break ground, they think 18 months,” Lewis said of construction. “It’s that or more in planning, contracting, drawings, relocations, and then about 18 months to actually do the work.”

During Monday night’s meeting, commissioners unanimously voted on two agreements with DOT, one to relocate water and sewer lines and the other to relocate a pump station.

The city will pay 25 percent of the $865,000 cost for relocating the water and sewer lines. The city’s $220,000 share would come from the city’s water and sewer retained earnings funds, while DOT would pay the remainder. DOT will reimburse the city for the cost to relocate the pump station, which is estimated at $280,000.

The city will also have to pay for relocation of a pump station outside Wells Wayside Furniture, but an estimated cost is not yet available.

Lewis said DOT would also pay the city for some right-of-way property acquisition, somewhere around $100,000.

Also on Monday night, the board agreed to the use of $72,530 from the sewer fund to pay for sewer line repairs on Devonshire Road.

Also Monday night, City Manager Frank Bottorff said staff has started working on the 2017-18 budget, which will be presented to commissioners during a series of budget work sessions, the first of which is scheduled for May 1, with a second session set for May 3.