BRUNSWICK COUNTY — If you’re driving on I-140 in Brunswick County, you’re not crazy; your car really is vibrating.
“What they are experiencing is real,” Andrew Barksdale, North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesperson, said.
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A $411 million project, I-140 was constructed in sections. Its southern section, which first opened in Sept. 2014, is aging quicker than NCDOT anticipated.
With the newest section now open, which connects US-74 and US-421 across the Cape Fear River, more cars are traveling the full length of the interstate.
“When the new section opened then suddenly people started using it all the way down or vice versa,” Barksdale said.
Though motorists may feel their car is out of alignment or something is wrong with their tires, Barksdale said the sensation is referred to by engineers as “chatter.” Chatter is caused by small cracks in pavement, that can cause cabin and road noise while traveling.
“It’s normal as a road gets older, that it gets noisier before we have to resurface it,” Barksdale. “But in this case, it’s happening a few years earlier than anticipated.”
Resurfacing to come
Pavement was poured on the southern section of I-140 over five years ago, about a year and a half before opening to the public. When it first opened in 2014, Barksdale said the section wasn’t very well-traveled.
“Turns out that pavement, believe it or not, holds together better when it’s being used than when it’s not being used,” he said.
A steady stream of vehicles keeps asphalt compact, settled and together, Barksdale said. Without the traffic, the road will require a resurfacing project sooner than anticipated.
“We would normally expect this to happen seven to 10 years before we start having some chatter like this,” Barksdale said.
Though the chatter may cause confusion, Barksdale said it’s only a noise issue. “There’s nothing wrong with the road,” he said. “It’s not deteriorating; pavement would have held up better if it had constant traffic going over it.”
To address the issue, NCDOT plans to award a $1.4 million bid to resurface the southern segment in 2019.
The northern portion, a more well-traveled section, should hold up longer than its southern counterpart, Barksdale said.
“It’s the same asphalt, it’s the same process,” Barksdale said. “It will hold up a lot better, you won’t have the vibrations as soon because it’s being used.”
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