Weather and other construction issues have prompted the prolonged closure of a heavily used route in Mount Airy, but a N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman says East Pine Street could be reopened in about 10 days.
The section of East Pine from Riverside Drive to Main Street beside the Mount Airy Post Office has been shut down since July 17 to allow pedestrian-safety improvements for Reeves Community Center (RCC) at the intersection of Renfro and Pine streets.
Before the closure, officials said the construction would take about a week and a half to complete, which has stretched into nearly a month so far.
“The rain put us back a few days,” explained Jamie Wood, a DOT transportation technician in Elkin who is overseeing the project. In addition to milling and repaving the portion of East Pine Street that was closed, the scope of work includes the installation of pedestrian signals, curb ramps and crosswalks at the RCC intersection.
Wood said the wet weather forced delays at the construction site which were inevitable. “We had to wait for it to dry out so we could pour the concrete.”
Meanwhile, crews also encountered old concrete during excavation at the intersection which had to be mitigated. “It’s taken a little bit longer than anticipated,” Wood said.
However, the project is still within the 70-day time frame for completion which was specified in the state’s agreement with the prime contractor for the job, Smith-Rowe, LLC, of Mount Airy.
“We’ve not exceeded that, and I don’t see us exceeding it,” said Wood, who added earlier this week that if everything goes well the work could be completed relatively soon along East Pine Street.
“I’d like to see it back open here within another week and a half.”
Wood indicated that when the work is completed, safety for pedestrians will be greatly improved, included those having to cross South Renfro Street to and from a parking lot on its opposite side from Reeves Community Center.
Over the years, large trucks took their toll on the curbing when making turns and running over the corners at the intersection, which plans called for reconfiguring as a result. ‘That’s why we took all four corners out,” Wood said.
One new feature at the improved intersection will be a “ped head” system, which is a countdown mechanism associated with a signalized crossing that tells pedestrians when to cross and how much time until the signal changes.
Wood said North Renfro Street also is scheduled to be paved from the community center to its intersection with East Independence Boulevard, where a large sinkhole formed on July 29.
That prompted DOT maintenance personnel to close one lane on both Independence and Renfro around the work site for days afterward.
Wood said that to avoid further hassles for local motorists, the Renfro Street repaving will be delayed until the closed portion of East Pine Street is fully paved and reopened.
In the meantime, a detour will remain in place around the RCC work site.
It involves westbound traffic approaching the city from East Pine Street (N.C. 103) turning right onto Riverside Drive, proceeding to East Independence Boulevard and making a left onto that street.
The detour route for eastbound traffic at Main Street includes turning right onto South Main and then making a left on Cherry Street to reach South Renfro Street.
Congestion an issue
Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Thursday that the detour has caused some problems with traffic patterns.
“Probably just the congestion part of it,” Watson said.
“A lot of our side streets have more traffic flow,” he added of one result. “They’re not designed for that.”
No major accidents or other problems have resulted, the police chief said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.