A rebuild of another section of Virginia’s Interstate 95 is nearing completion. The project, which began in March 2001, involves the Atlee/Elmont Interchange.
“The big picture is to shift the intersection north along I-95 to reduce the traffic congestion at the I-95/I-295 merge and to ease congestion from Route 1 along Sliding Hill Road past Lakeridge Parkway to the Sliding Hill Road/Atlee Station Road intersection,” explained Jeannette Coleman of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
VDOT awarded the $40 million contract to English Construction Company Inc. It includes a new cloverleaf interchange, the relocation of Sliding Hill Road and Telegraph Road, and improvements to US Route 1, Atlee Station Road, and Lakeridge Parkway.
In addition, a new road will be constructed to connect Route 1 and Atlee Station Road with the new interchange. Nine new bridges will be constructed, and the bridge over the Chickahominy River will be widened to four lanes. The current interchange will be removed after the new one is completed, which is currently expected by January 2005.
According to Coleman, completion was originally scheduled for November 1, 2003. “However, due primarily to weather,” she explained, “the project was pushed into the winter construction season of 2003-2004. We’re now out of that and heading towards substantial completion [i.e. opening the interchange to traffic] in the fall. There will be other work to complete, but traffic should be using the new ramps then.”
Coleman noted that the project has created several challenges, mainly because it involves work on a busy interstate. “Because it’s so busy,” she said, “it requires that we do a lot of work at night, and it keeps us from doing work on and around holidays.
“Not only is I-95 the busiest interstate in the state, but we are at the merge point for I-95 and I-295, which creates a very dangerous and congested environment.” Coleman continued.
“I-95 northbound has three lanes and I-295 northbound has four lanes. Both of these interstates neck down to two lanes and then combine to go north on I-95. In the middle of all this is the Atlee/Elmont interchange –– on-ramps, off-ramps, traffic weaves. Traffic no more than gets past the interchange and then they have to transition down to three lanes –– a lot to deal with in three miles. It makes working within the area very dangerous,” she added.
Environmental concerns also have presented challenges with this project. Coleman explained that two creeks and one river run through the construction site, and crews must be very cognizant of them at all times.
“We work hard not to pollute them with silt and eroded earth,” she explained. “We also have to work around high waters and make repairs for those floodwaters repeatedly.”
Bridge work is another concern. “The project has ten bridges on it, two of them over the interstate,” Coleman noted. “Bridge work is slow and can be dangerous, and requires night work over the interstate. Night work is more difficult and dangerous for the construction crews.”
Coleman reported that the project is unusual because the intersection is being relocated in the same general area. “Relocation of this intersection requires a lot of traffic coordination and traffic shifts,” she explained. “We’ve been planning for months for our first ramp closure, which we anticipate will happen in late July.
“We will begin closing the old ramps and opening new ramps. This work will have a big impact on the traffic patterns and will, for a few weeks, cause the public some consternation as they are routed to new locations. It will also require some of them to have to take a little less direct route than they’re used to taking now.
“As my dad used to say, ’It’s like going around your elbow to get to your thumb.’ We’re working with the contractor to minimize the ’elbow to thumb’ routes, but they’re inevitable,” she continued. “However, once the intersection is fully open and traffic is moving where it was designed to go, the public will love it.”
Within the project limits, a total of 720,000 cu. yds. (550,000 cu m) of earth will be moved, and 244,000 cu. yds. (183,000 cu m) of earth will be brought in from outside the project limits. Pavement demolition will cover 27,000 sq. yds. (22,500 sq m), or the length of 4.5 football fields.
The project will include 123,500 tons (111,150 t) of asphalt, over 12,000 cu. yds. (9,000 cu m) of concrete, 4.4 mi. (7 km) of guardrail and 16.5 lane mi. (26.6 km) of road to be built or reconstructed.
Representatives for English Construction include Danny Marsh, project superintendent; Bernie Davis, project manager; and Wilson Dickerson, senior project manager.
Approximately 100 people are assigned to the project.
The equipment list for the project includes: a John Deere 5210 tractor; a Caterpillar D3 dozer, a D8L, a D6M dozer, a 615 pan, a D6 LGP dozer, a 14H motor grader, a 12H motor grader, a 924G loader, a 416 backhoe, four 330 track hoes, a 416 backhoe, and two CP 563 rollers (smooth drum); a Rammax roller; a Mack water truck Econodyne and tractor Econodyne; two International 4900 dump trucks; two Ford F900 dump trucks and an L8000 dump; a Link-Belt LS108B and LS138 crane; a P&H RT 160 crane; and a Grove RT522 crane.