HOPE MILLS – Each day, several loads of brown dirt are scooped up and carried over Interstate 95 on a conveyor belt to a highway construction site.
In August, a contracting team for the N.C. Department of Transportation completed installing a temporary bridge supporting the conveyor belt near the Robeson-Cumberland County line. The contractor needs the dirt for constructing the Fayetteville Outer Loop interchange at I-95 south of Hope Mills.
By using the conveyor belt system, the contractor aims to finish the project quicker and more safely and reduce construction costs.
“This conveyor belt system makes the construction more efficient,” said Joe Bailey, an NCDOT project engineer based in the Lumberton office. “The contractor team actually came up with this idea during the design process.”
The conveyor belt will divert the equivalent of 109,000 dump trucks that would have traveled over public roads. Instead, only heavy, off-road equipment is moving the dirt. The system improves safety for the traveling public because it eliminates the use of dump trucks to transport the dirt.
The concept is not unprecedented in North Carolina. Contractors have used a similar setup to haul borrow material over major routes in Wilmington and Raleigh for other highway projects.
The department in late 2017 awarded a $129.7 million contract to the Wilmington-based team of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc., Branch Civil Inc. and STV Engineers Inc. A design-build contract outlines an alternative approach for construction that combines the engineering, right-of-way and construction functions under one manager. The collaborative approach promotes design innovation and faster project delivery.
The contractor is hauling the dirt from a privately owned borrow pit on one side of I-95, then loading it onto the conveyor belt, which runs continuously similar to the way an escalator works in a mall. The dirt will be used as fill around the bridges and ramps associated with the interchange, as well as to elevate the ground where the outer loop’s travel lanes will be built.
The Fayetteville Outer Loop segment under construction will stretch from the conveyor belt system near mile marker 38 to just south of Camden Road in western Cumberland County, a distance of about 6 miles. Completion is expected in three years. The conveyor belt will be dismantled next year.
The Fayetteville Outer Loop, when completed by 2024, will be a 39-mile bypass around the northern and western sides of Fayetteville. It provides Fort Bragg direct interstate access, and the loop improves overall traffic safety and congestion in the region. About half of the loop is open to traffic. Information about other segments under construction is available on this NCDOT project page.