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Biz patience with road work delay wearing thin

080918 Roads
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The Twiford Law Firm's sign at 203 North Road Street, Elizabeth City, is shown Wednesday. An attorney with the firm said the delayed resurfacing of Road Street has made getting to and from the firm difficult.

080918 Roads
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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Pavement and patience both have been milled thin on Road Street in Elizabeth City, where business owners are complaining that delayed road work is blocking customers’ access to their stores, shops and offices.

Audra Marx, of Muddy Waters Coffeehouse, said Wednesday she estimates the Road Street work has cost her more than $10,000 in reduced sales over the last month.

“I need something to change,” Marx said.

She also said a firefighter had expressed concerns to her that the road's closure would slow down emergency response. Road Street is a major north-south corridor through Elizabeth City.

The N.C. Department of Transportation is paying RPC Contracting, of Kitty Hawk, to repave the “midsection” of Road Street between Ehringhaus and Elizabeth streets. RPC milled the section of the road weeks ago and it's remained closed since — largely due to constant, heavy rainfall over the least few weeks, according to a DOT engineer.

Other business owners and professionals along the section of Road Street waiting for the repaving also expressed some frustration on Wednesday. Among them were Jesse Carden, of Precision Printing, and H.P. Williams Jr., a retired attorney winding down affairs with his clients at the Twiford Law Firm.

Williams said it’s hard getting to and from the law firm — “the parking lot is empty,” he said — and he added that DOT has communicated little about the delay.

“I can't understand why it's taking so long,” Williams said. “I want them to finish it.”

DOT Resident Engineer David Otts acknowledged getting complaints about the project delays, but said RPC is moving paving equipment to the area and should start work on Friday. If weather cooperates, the work will be done early next week, he said.

Weather has not been cooperating lately, however.

“In a perfect world, the paving would have started two weeks ago,” Otts said.

Since RPC milled the road last month, Elizabeth City has seen near daily rain, he said. A milled road must be completely dry before paving, but milling also makes a road more absorbent and slower to dry out, he said.

Otts also said RPC's paving crews couldn't be in place earlier because they were finishing work in Gates County that also was delayed by rain.

Otts said DOT has tried to reduce the road work's impact by leaving open cross streets, such as Main Street, but the agency won’t reopen the entire stretch of Road Street during rainy periods.

That's because the milled road is more fragile and could be damaged by vehicle traffic, he explained. Conversely, he also noted the road is about an inch-and-a-half lower than normal, exposing water valves and manholes that could damage vehicles.

In a prior interview, a DOT engineer said it was possible RPC would mill and overlay the project area in phases, rather than complete the entire road at once. Otts said DOT and RPC decided to mill the entire area at once so it could be repaved all at once. That will eliminate seams or bumps from stopping and starting paving, ensuring a smoother driving surface, he said.

Otts also said he had heard no complaints from first responders about the project delays.

Marx said she had heard RPC would finish the road soon, but she's waiting to see it happen.

“We've heard that a couple times now,” she said.

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