By: Angela B. Hurni
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is continuing to make progress toward completing the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Program, which the General Assembly established in 1989 in order to improve safety while traveling on the then mostly two-lane, winding and hilly road. The program also proposes to enhance economic development in the region, which is largely rural.
U.S. Route 58 is the longest single road in Virginia, stretching more than 500 mi. (805 km) along the state’s southern border from the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest tip.
Many years of effort have been required to provide all of the improvements needed to complete the corridor. The effort put into improving this Virginia road includes research and planning, design and engineering, and financing and construction. All the while, those involved in the improvements must ensure that historical, cultural and natural resources are protected.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board has issued $704.3 million worth of bonds for improvements under the U. S. Route 58 Corridor Development Program.
According to Charles D. “Chip” Nottingham, Commonwealth Transportation commissioner, in the Winter 2001 Update Newsletter, “Approximately $714 million has been spent for improvements. All the bonds previously authorized for the program have been issued.”
Additionally, the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000 designated $229.3 million from transportation revenue sources for the program.
The U.S. Route 58 Corridor Program is comprised of 650 mi. (1,046 km), including related improvements. When the program was developed in 1989, there were 271 existing mi. (436 km). Presently, 107.9 mi. (174 km) of the roadway have been constructed, and 53.77 mi. (86 km) are currently under construction. There are also 180.4 mi. (290 km) in the preliminary engineering stage, and 37 mi. (60 km) of future work are planned.
Construction on Route 58 has occurred or is presently underway in more than 25 different southern tier counties. There are several projects either completed or underway in Lee County. Construction of a 2-mile (3.2 km) segment of the four-lane road through the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park was completed in the summer of 1999. Also, from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to Route 621 at Hardy Creek, about 10 mi. (16 km) west of Jonesville, approximately 20 mi. (32 km) of improved highway have opened to traffic in the past three years.
Construction that is currently underway in Lee County consists of 2 mi. (3.2 km) of new road from Route 621 at Hardy Creek to Route 899, which connects at the west end with one of the already improved sections.
Roadwork is complete on the two sections between Route 899 and the west end of the proposed Jonesville Bypass. Construction also is underway on the section between Ben Hur and the west end of the proposed Pennington Gap Bypass.
According to Bob Jones, president of R.S. Jones & Associates of Abingdon, VA, his company performed much of the work in Lee County west of Jonesville. Of the 35 mi. (56 km) under construction, R.S. Jones is working as the prime contractor for 25 mi. (40 km) and is the earth works subcontractor for 3 mi. (4.8 km).
“Our company has participated in Route 58 Corridor a lot,” said Jones. “In 1993, we started work on Route 58 in Lee County and, presently, we are working in Lee County. The Route 58 Corridor Program has been great for us, and we look forward to doing more of it.”
In the counties of Lee, Wise and Scott, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has ordered that the existing Route 58 from Jonesville to Duffield be widened to four lanes if funds are available; however, these improvements are not part of the official Route 58 Corridor Development Program.
Also in the three counties, truck-climbing lanes have been added to the 4 mi. (6.4 km) between Dot and Stickleyville. The official Route 58 Corridor follows Alternate Route 58 from Jonesville to Big Stone Gap, and Route 23 from Big Stone Gap to Duffield.
Exclusively in Lee and Wise counties, work east of Pennington Gap to Big Stone Gap includes the section that begins 1 mi. (1.6 km) from Route 421 and ends a .5 mi. (0.8 km) east of Route 752 (Dryden Bypass), which has been segmented into two separate projects. Construction is underway on the first segment from Route 629 to .5 mi. (0.8 km) east of Route 752 (Dryden Bypass portion). The adjacent section that ends 1 mi. (1.6 km) west of Route 620 near Olinger also is under construction.
W-L Construction & Paving Inc. of Chilhowie, VA, is the prime contractor on these projects, while R.S. Jones & Associates is the earthmoving subcontractor that also is performing storm drain work. The connecting section that reaches the Wise County line has been advertised.
Two projects have been completed in Scott County, including the construction of Business Route 58 on Kane Street in Gate City, which wrapped up in October 2000. The second project, completed at the end of 1997, went from Route 23 at Duffield to west of Route 604. Work on this strip consisted of widening 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) of Route 58 to five lanes.
Several projects are still in the planning stages in Scott, Washington, Smyth and Grayson counties. The job that spans from Weber City to Bristol in Scott and Washington counties is still awaiting funds. Funds have not been identified for construction or additional planning for improvements along this 22-mi. (35.4 km) section. Planning that is occurring only in Washington County includes work from Abingdon to Damascus.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the design of three projects in Washington County in March 2000, and the right-of-way acquisition is underway for all of them. Contracts for the section just east of Abingdon are scheduled for advertisement in December 2002.
In addition, VDOT also is in the early stages of preliminary engineering for improvements to Route 58 from Damascus to Volney in Washington, Smyth and Grayson counties. Included as part of this program are improvements to Route 16 in Smyth and Grayson counties, Route 603 in Washington and Smyth, and Route 725 in Washington County.
The only project that has been completed within these four counties is in Grayson County from Bridle Creek to west of Galax. Construction has been completed on improvements to the 8 mi. (12.8 km) from Independence to the existing four lanes west of Galax.
Eight bypass projects have been included in the Route 58 Corridor Development Program, and the only one that has been completed thus far is the South Hill Bypass. The other seven bypasses in Jonesville, Pennington Gap, Big Stone Gap, Independence, Stuart, Danville and Clarksville are either still under construction or in the planning stages.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the design of the Pennington Gap Bypass in March 2001. The “Southern option of the Northern Alignment” for the Jonesville Bypass and the “Option B” location for the Big Stone Gap Bypass were approved in 1997. A public hearing was held in December 2000 for the Big Stone Gap Bypass, which is in the preliminary stages. In the meantime, changes with the tie-in at Route 23 are being studied, and another public hearing is slated for 2002. In addition, a specific design for the Jonesville Bypass is in the developmental stages. Acquisition of right-of-way for the Pennington Gap Bypass is scheduled to began this spring.
The Independence, Stuart and Danville Bypasses are either in planning stages or under construction. Preliminary engineering work has begun on the Independence Bypass. R.S. Jones & Associates is the prime contractor for construction of the $16-million Stuart Bypass, which is proceeding well and is tentatively set for completion in summer 2003.
The Danville Bypass extends from Route 58 west to Route 29 south. Right-of-way acquisition continues on portions of the projects. Construction on the first contract is underway and should be completed in November 2002. The second contract also is under construction and should be completed in spring 2003. The third contract was awarded in December 2000, construction began in winter of last year, and completion is expected next summer.
A contract was awarded in April 2000 for construction of the Clarksville Bypass. This project is 5 mi. (8 km) long, extending from Route 722 north on the western end of Clarksville to just across Occoneechee Harbor on the eastern side of town. Once completed, the bypass will include 11 bridges and one special design box culvert. The longest of the bridges will be the .93-mi. (1.5-km) bridge crossing Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir.
In May 2000, VDOT entered into a contract with AMEC Civil LLC as the general contractor. The project completion date, originally contracted for November 2003, has been extended to December 2003. The Fort Myers, FL, office of AMEC is overseeing this project, which is estimated to cost $73 million.
The bridge being built over Buggs Island Lake has turned into a hefty endeavor calling for multiple stages of work. This 4,900-ft. (1,493 m) main bridge will have 28 piers using a total of 14,564 cu. yds. (11,135 cu m) of concrete to construct them. The super structure portion of the bridge will be constructed using 13,032 cu. yds. (9,964 cu m) of concrete. The bridge will range from 36 ft. (11 m) to 71 ft. (22 m) above the ordinary water elevation of the lake, which is 302 ft. (92 m).
According to Charlie Guerrant, project engineer of VDOT’s South Hill Residency, “Thirty-nine drill shafts have been completed on the Buggs Island Lake Bridge, and each pier has three drill shafts.”
The bridge will require 16.6 million lbs. (7.5 million kg) of steel beams, some as long as 130 ft. (40 m). Having the steel beams shipped to the Clarksville Bypass area has proved to be quite a challenge. The steel was shipped from Brazil, and the steel company is still working on a plan to deliver it to the job site.
“The steel beams are sitting in Wilmington, NC, and we’re still not sure how it will get here-either by rail or truck,” said Guerrant. “There is no set time right now, but we’re looking at the middle of summer to set the structural steel.”
In the meantime, bridge crews will use barge-mounted cranes to drill the holes for the casings, install the casings and clean out the interiors of the units with giant augers and water pumps. Instead of using divers to perform the underwater work, AMEC will be using specially designed cameras to watch what is happening under the water.
Once the casings area is installed, steel rebar will be lowered in for added strength, and the casings will be filled with concrete. The steel casings will serve as concrete forms and even though a portion of each will be severed below the water, the remaining casings will be left on the lower sections. Eighty-five casings in all will support the main bridge when it is finished.
Another interesting aspect of the bridge over Buggs Island Lake is the stone that is being placed in the lake on the east end of Clarksville. The stone is being used to construct a special embankment, which will aid the tie-in between Route 58 (east and west) as well as existing Route 15 north. Once completed, there will be five bridges, including four ramps, in this area that will ease traffic through the junction.
The Clarksville Bypass will cross Shiney Rock Road just north of the existing intersection with Noblin Farm Road. There will be turning lanes and connectors constructed for access to or from Shiney Rock.
One phase that has been completed in Clarksville is the widening of a section of Route 15 south from existing Route 58 to connect with the planned Clarksville Bypass.
Patrick and Henry counties have had work either completed or nearing completion as part of the Route 58 Corridor Development Program. In Henry County, from Spencer to Martinsville, a 5-mi. (8 km) section was finished and opened to traffic in mid-1996. In both counties from Stuart to Spencer, about 6 mi. (9.6 km) west of the Route 220 Bypass of Martinsville, a 2.4-mi. (3.9 km) section of constructed roadway was opened to traffic in August 1999, and a 3-mi. (4.8 km) section was completed in July 2000. Another 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) in Patrick County will be completed this fall. The remaining 2.5 miles (4 km) in Henry County are scheduled to be completed later this year.
In the counties of Carroll, Floyd and Patrick work that will occur east of Interstate 77 near Hillsville to Stuart is in the preliminary engineering stage to prepare detailed design plans for 36 mi. (58 km) of Route 58 across the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are six Route 58 projects and a Route 669 project in this area with design features that were approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December 1998. Additionally, right-of-way acquisition is being purchased for projects at Meadows of Dan, Hillsville and Route 669, which were advertised for bid this spring.
Two projects in Mecklenburg County have been completed and another is just beginning construction. Work in this county has been completed from Clarksville to Boydton and from the Boydton Bypass to Route 1, where widening of Route 58 to four lanes between Boydton and Clarksville has been completed. Also in Mecklenburg, crews from the general contractor, Key Construction Co. Inc. of Clarksville, have started work on the last section of Route 58, which includes widening two lanes to four lanes.
In Southampton County, a new interchange at Routes 58 and 35 was opened in 1997. Planning continues in Southampton for an upgraded East Courtland interchange at Route 58 Business and Route 58 Bypass. Preliminary engineering is underway for this area, and VDOT is coordinating with state and federal agencies to address any environmental concerns.
Construction is done on most projects in Danville, Greensville, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and in the City of Suffolk, including the former Suicide Strip in Southampton County. Two-lane bypasses were widened to four lanes at Emporia, Courtland and Franklin. Construction has been completed in Danville, and the interchange at Riverview Industrial Park is open to traffic.
Construction is underway in Isle of Wight on the Franklin Connector. Preliminary engineering has been completed; the project was advertised in April 2001; and a contract was awarded June 2001. Work on this project should be finished by June 2003.
Lastly, work in Halifax County is still in the planning stages. Flood pattern studies for the Riverdale and South Boston areas have been completed and recommendations are being considered.
For more information, visit www.vdot.com .