N.C. Contractor Beats Traffic with Innovative Asphalt Conveyor Above I-40

Highway contractor S.T. Wooten has found an innovative way to deliver asphalt to its $420 million project to widen a section of Interstate 40 in North Carolina while still adhering to strict traffic requirements.

Haul trucks are limited to accessing the work zone between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by interstate, so the company built a conveyor system over I-40 near Clayton that delivers hot-mix asphalt to the median where crews are paving. That enables asphalt delivery any time, which is especially helpful as the night-shift work is set to resume following the end of winter’s cold weather. Crews are set to work day and night to meet the tight deadline to complete the project by August.

“It’s a huge benefit for us and the people traveling, too, as far as dump trucks getting in and out of the highway,” says project manager Matt Davis. “And it just makes it a lot safer.”

dump trucks lined up at silo in median on I-40 widening in NC at end of conveyorThe 80-ton silo at the end of the conveyor supplies dump trucks with asphalt to feed the pavers.S.T. WootenThe conveyor is located at the back of an asphalt plant Wooten installed on Cleveland Road just off the interstate.

Paving is occurring in a wide section of the median between the collection-distributor lanes Wooten has already built. Asphalt is sent up the conveyor from the plant over the interstate to the median. Dump trucks at the plant feed the hopper. At the end of the conveyor is an 80-ton silo where trucks in the median can fill up to feed the pavers.

The asphalt on the conveyor is in an enclosed pipe and is kept heated to the correct temperature for paving.

Davis estimates it took about a month to build the system, which was constructed in two phases to accommodate traffic. It’s about 280 feet long, 40 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide. Davis estimates it will deliver about 150,000 to 175,000 tons of asphalt “that essentially we can haul without impacting traffic whatsoever.”

The company says it will prevent about 8,000 truck trips in traffic.

Wooten also prevented more than 34,000 haul truck trips in interstate traffic earlier in the project with a temporary ramp it built to its asphalt and concrete plant in Garner. The ramp was built off a bridge over the interstate that has since been demolished as part of the project. It enabled dump trucks to travel directly into the median construction area and avoid traffic.

map I-40 widening project n.c.The red line shows S.T. Wooten’s project area.NCDOTThe I-40 widening project of 13 miles between Clayton and Raleigh began in October 2018, and the first 7-mile phase between the I-440 and U.S. 70 Bypass interchanges is mostly completed.

The final phase involves widening the interstate to the N.C. 42 interchange. The interstate is being expanded from four to eight lanes and from six to 10 lanes, depending on the section. Other features of the project include 15 new or reconstructed bridges and a new flyover from I-440 west to I-40 east.

The company has faced many changes to the project, which started at $360 million, and some challenges, especially with the traffic. Also, a supervisor was tragically killed after a drunken driver crashed through the work zone last May. Following the incident, Wooten has hired local off-duty police officers to enforce the work zone.

The biggest change to the project since the contract was awarded was the addition of a second diverging diamond interchange at Jones Sausage Road. Davis reports that it is nearly completed.

“As of now, we’re pushing,” he says. “I just hope we have a warm spring and a dry spring.”

aerial view Jones Sausage Road diverging diamond interchangeAerial view of the new Jones Sausage Road diverging diamond interchange.S.T. Wooten