The Bridgeport News
By Jeff Toquinto – News Editor
BRIDGEPORT (Thursday, April 18, 2002)
The opening of Interstate 279, also known at the North Bridgeport Bypass, won’t be moved back, according to a Division of Highways official.
Donald Williams, the Assistant District 4 Engineer in charge of construction, said the opening of the 2.8 mile, $30 million roadway will still likely take place in the middle of May. On a few other occasions, the DOH has had to change the date of the roadway’s opening.
"I think it’s safe to say that it’s on track," said Williams. "Right now we have less than (one) week of paving to go and, after that, we will finish with the touch up work."
The touch up work Williams refers to includes striping and other road markings that need to be put in place.
Williams also said a bridge crossing Route 131 is also complete. With the bridge done and only touch up work left, the roadway connecting Interstate 79 at the Jerry Dove Exit and U.S. Route 50, near Maple Lake will be complete.
The opening of the roadway may be good news for the local economy. Not only does the road provide immediate interstate access to the Harrison-Marion ( Benedum) Regional Airport, it is also expected to help with development at Charles Pointe.
Officials at Charles Pointe, a $750 million development announced in October of 2000, have said several commercial opportunities would be able to move ahead once the roadway is open.
City Manager Kim Haws certainly hopes that’s the case. The city, as well as the region, stands to gain from any development at Charles Pointe.
"I feel confident the road’s opening will have an impact on Charles Pointe," said Haws.
Even if the new roadway doesn’t help Charles Pointe and it’s 2000 acres, it should benefit other land surrounding it.
"Investors and developers will soon be able to drive through that area an assess the property," said Haws. "Certainly, with no roadway the property would not be in position to spur any type of interest from those people."
Williams said the land in question is pleasing to the eye. "I think people will be surprised when they get on it because it’s really a beautiful stretch of road," said Williams. "Although it’s comparable to U. S. Route 50, it looks like an interstate with two lanes going in each direction."
Williams said he hasn’t seen anything as far as an exact date to open the road or a grand-opening ceremony. However, he said the expects both soon.
The road’s last delay came when workers were unable to put down a top coat of asphalt, a wintering surface due to temperatures dropping below 50 degrees.
"You could do it, but you don’t like to put that surface down in cold temperatures," said Williams. " When it gets below 50 degrees, a lot of time that surface just ravels back up, particularly with a lot of traffic."
A lot of the traffic Bridgeport hopes will go on to 279 will be tractor-trailers. The rigs often bottleneck the city’s downtown and it’s believed the majority of trucks using Route 50 will now opt for this roadway.
"It should help from that standpoint," said Haws. "If it does, then it will help us when we’re doing our downtown revitalization with the new sidewalks and other amenities being put in."