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A Lane of Their Own: VDOT to Add Truck Climbing Lanes on I-81

Mon August 22, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A new truck climbing lane is currently under construction in Virginia along Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County near Lexington.

The project is reportedly in line with a resolution passed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Oct. 2006 that directed the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to implement a program of safety improvements to I-81, including the construction of truck climbing lanes.

According to VDOT, about one dozen locations along steep grades on I-81 have been identified where climbing lanes would improve traffic flow and safety. The Rockbridge location was named as a top priority.

The contract was awarded to W.C. English Inc., of Lynchburg, and the project began on Feb. 25, 2009. Substantial completion has been set for Sept. 4, 2012. Bernie Davis is the project manager for English.

The full dollar amount for the project is $74.2 million, and funding is from both federal and state sources. The contract calls for grading, drainage, paving, box culverts and the construction of three bridges.

The project is located on the northbound lanes between mile marker 195.6 and 202.5. The 6.97-mi. (11.2 km) project will add the truck-climbing lane; replace the bridges at Route 716, Route 712 and Route 710; improve existing left and right shoulders; and upgrade guardrails, guardrail transitions and end treatments to meet current Federal Highway standards.

“This location on I-81 northbound has one of the longest and steepest uphill grades, higher than average crashes compared to other uphill grades, and low operating speeds for trucks within the VDOT Staunton District,” a VDOT spokesperson noted. “Truck climbing lane locations were identified in accordance with American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials criteria during the corridor study conducted in the late 1990s.”

It was reported that the average traffic volume in this particular area was 45,500 vehicles per day in 2009. The average is projected to increase to 68,650 vehicles per day by 2029.

Approximately 80 people are assigned to the Design-Build project.

Davis reported that challenges include constructing the project in phases and working with the I-81 traffic.

Major subcontractors include Adams Construction Company, Ramirez Contractors LLC, Wilbur Smith Associates (QC), RK & K (QA), and AECOM USA Inc. (designers). CEG

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