Moving right along

321 widening project shows good progress
Dec. 16, 2012 @ 08:47 AM

The widening of U.S. 321 in northern Caldwell County through Blowing Rock will cease for the Christmas holiday.

Crews with Taylor and Murphy Construction Co, Inc. of Asheville will work through Friday, Dec. 21 then take an extended leave for Christmas. Work along the 4.034-mile project corridor from Blackberry Road to the Tanger Outlet’s Shoppes on the Parkway will not resume until Thursday, Dec. 27, allowing workers to spend time with their families while keeping the road free of any lane closures during a heavy period of holiday travel.

“We’ll take some time off for the holidays; we won’t be working at all over Christmas,” Project Manager Chris Byers said, adding that there will be no work on Jan. 1, but crews will return to the job site on Jan. 2.

Byers said work along the project route has been going well since it began in January. Most of the work has involved excavation, and with colder weather settling in, that probably will be the bulk of what takes place until the spring.

“We’ve got a lot of material moved through the town,” said Byers, noting that work from U.S. 221 to the 321 Business intersection – Area I – is slated to be completed first for the $66.4 million project. “It takes a while to move that material, but things are going great so far.”

Work along the southern end of the job, or Area II, from Blackberry Road to U.S. 321 Business has consisted of excavation and moving rock and dirt for the deep fills that need to be constructed to allow for the widening.

“That’s what we’ll work on through the winter, weather permitting,” Byers explained, adding that construction of retaining walls also will continue.

Several walls already are under construction at locations throughout the job site.

“We have a lot to build, some to hold up houses or the roadway and some to hold up slopes,” he said. “There will be some tight corridors to work in.”

Because of those tight work areas, especially though Blowing Rock, there could be some road shutdowns from time to time, definitely some lane closures if nothing else, simply to give crews time and space to do their work.

So far, there have not been many periods of shutting down the highway. Blasting work has caused some shutdowns on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., forcing traffic to follow detours. For the most part closures have been limited to one lane for a hold time of about five minutes. Byers said crews will continue to do that if at all possible to avoid any difficulties for motorists.

Byers said the snow that fell in the High Country in late October cost crews about a week’s worth of work, but that’s something to be expected when working in the mountains during the winter.

“We lost the week, but that’s kind of what we were expecting,” Byers said. “Storms are going to come through and shut down work until they are gone. Winters are still rough in Boone. It will be a hit or miss thing all through the winter. We’ll just have to deal with it and do what we can.”