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Get ready for construction on I-77 and I-485 in Charlotte

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Two of Charlotte's major interstates are due for construction projects. Next week NCDOT plans to award a contract to complete the final leg of I-485. And tonight the department will hold an open house about plans to widen a portion of I-77 in uptown. That construction is likely to clog commutes coming into Charlotte. Charlotte's outer loop is another step closer to becoming an actual loop, rather than a horseshoe. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has received four bids from companies willing to build the last five-mile leg of I-485, and all are offering to do it for less than the $185 million the state budgeted. "I think that's a result of the economy," says NCDOT division engineer Barry Moose. "There's not a lot of work out there. The contractors are much more competitive cause they certainly need the work to sustain themselves." Moose says Charlotte-based Blythe Construction had the lowest bid, coming in nearly $60 million under budget. NCDOT is expected to award a contract later this week. The road should be finished in 2014, with construction underway next spring. Around the same time next year, Moose says construction will also be underway to widen some of the lanes on I-77 southbound between I-85 and the Brookshire Freeway. NCDOT made the inner lanes a few feet shy of the federal standard when it added a commuter lane several years ago. "North Carolina gave the federal highway administration our word that we would go back and complete the widening at a later date whenever the funding was available," says Moose. He says the lane widening on I-77 will take about two years to complete and cost $16 million. The public can learn more at an open house that runs until 7 p.m. tonight at the Greenville Recreation Center on Spring Street in Charlotte.