The snafu that had Havelock traffic backed up from Cherry Point's Slocum gate to Highway 101, and resulted in nearly $7,500 in fines for the S.T. Wooten Corporation, was the result of construction of drainage piping and the wait for asphalt to be delivered, according to a N.C. Department of Transportation official.
Brad McMannes, resident engineer with the NCDOT said the contractor closed a lane in both directions to work on installing new pipes for drainage across U.S. 70. He said that after the pipe was put in place, backfilled and compacted, asphalt had to be added and the same process done before the lanes were reopened, but the asphalt did not arrive until 3 p.m.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” he said in an email.
On Thursday all lanes should have been reopened at 3 p.m. The traffic didn’t get moving until almost 5:30. The fine imposed was $500 for every 15 minutes past the scheduled reopening time. People were stuck in the mess for hours including children on buses on their way home from school, and concerned motorists were quick to notify the DOT.
“Our New Bern, Kinston and Raleigh offices all received a lot of complaints,” McMannes said.
He related that fines of this sort are not unusual.
“This is typical for all NCDOT contracts. This contract states that no lane closures are allowed on U.S.70 from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. as well as 3-9 p.m,” he said.
He said that if the conditions are not met, fines are the result.
Havelock resident Maritza Sterling was caught in the near gridlock conditions while checking out one of Havelock’s new restaurants.
“I just left Cook-Out and I was turning to go in the [Walmart] parking lot. That’s where it started. It was 3:25 p.m. It took one hour and 10 minutes trying to get to Wendy’s. I was praying, ‘Lord, please don’t let me get impatient,’” she said.
When contacted for comment about the traffic problem and fine, S.T. Wooten Communications Manager Eva Hornak said that on Monday April 22 a meeting between the company and the NCDOT would be taking place. Hornak said she wasn’t sure about the time, however.
McMannes said the timeframe for the completion of the Slocum Flyover is on time and not behind schedule. The project is expected to be finished by September. He also said that concerns about more traffic problems including summer month beach traffic will be addressed at Monday’s meeting.
He also said that April 22 meeting would include officials from Havelock as well as the police department.
“[We will] discuss what happened last week and to come up with a plan where this doesn’t happen again.”