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KENLY — Drivers who travel Interstate 95 between Selma and Kenly have faced slow-moving traffic for the better part of two years. And the inconvenience is likely to continue until the project’s scheduled completion two summers from now.
It’s a long time from a 2017 start to a 2021 finish, but the state is essentially rebuilding that stretch of highway from the ground up, said Andrew Barksdale, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transposition. “We are completely modernizing, repaving and reconstructing this seven-mile stretch in every way except for widening,” he said.
The section of I-95 between Selma and Kenly is likely among the oldest on an interstate that opened in Johnston County in 1959, Barksdale said. And that means bringing it into the 21st century it is complicated work, he said.
“When rehabilitating and repaving the travel lanes, we cannot simply mill away the asphalt and pour new asphalt,” he said. “Because this is one of the oldest stretches of Interstate 95 in North Carolina, we have to dig up the pavement and repair sections of concrete several inches below the driving surface.”
The good news, Barksdale said, is that crews have finished repairing all of the concrete below the driving surface. “Over the next 18 months, we will be replacing the top eight inches of pavement with new asphalt,” he said.
“We will be doing the work in sections, and we will shift traffic onto other areas of pavement in order to maintain four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, while the reconstruction is taking place,” Barksdale said.
That means drivers won’t face times when they’re in one-lane traffic, and that’s unusual, Barksdale said. “Typically what we usually do with a modern interstate is to close down the section being worked on at night, but that was not done in this case,” he said.
While the state isn’t widening I-95 in Johnston, it is preparing for the day when I-95 in the county will be six lanes instead of four. Specifically, the state is replacing older, shorter bridges over I-95 with longer ones that can accommodate a wider interstate.
Those bridges — on Lizzie Mill Road and Bizzell Grove Church Road — are on schedule to open this spring. About the same time, the state will shift traffic from the old Truck Stop Road bridge to the new one being built alongside it.
Work between Selma and Kenly actually began in 2015, when the DOT began replacing the northbound and southbound I-95 bridges over the Little River. The state built those bridges, about two miles south of Kenly, in 1956 and had since classified them as “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”
For that project, the state closed the on-ramp from Bagley Road to I-95 North on and off for three years. Because of that, Big Boy’s Truck Stop and Lowell Mill Restaurant on Bagley Road often closed too.
Similarly, construction of the Truck Stop Road overpass of I-95 has affected traffic in and out of the Flying J Travel Center and Kenly 95 Petro truck stop.
In addition to essentially rebuilding I-95 between exits 100 and 107, the state is replacing the center guardrail with a concrete wall that will be safer and require less maintenance, Barksdale said. Also, it’s widening the shoulders, improving drainage and clearing some trees for safety reasons.