Overcoming Setbacks, E.V. Williams Moves Ahead on $85M Job

Wed October 29, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has hired Virginia Beach-based E.V. Williams Construction Company as the primary contractor for the Coliseum Central Highway Improvement Project (CCHIP) in Hampton, VA. The work zone encompasses approximately 2.5 mi. (4 km) on I-64 from I-664 on the eastern end to the Hampton Roads Center Parkway on the western end. Construction began in June 2001, and is scheduled for completion during summer 2005 despite problems that occurred over the summer with drainage in a newly paved section.

The Federal Highway Administration is funding the entire CCHIP job. The cost of the project is in the range of $79 to $85 million, depending on who you ask. According to Dennis Miller, E.V. Williams project manager, “both numbers are very low; it is a projection.” The final price tag will be known when the project is completed.

The goal of the project is to improve access, safety and traffic flow along I-64 between the I-664 split and Hampton Roads Center Parkway, including the Mercury Boulevard interchange and the Magruder Boulevard exit. The number of cars that travel that section of I-64 daily is 138,000, increasing to 170,000 during peak travel times –– it is the second busiest corridor in the entire Hampton Roads region. In addition, approximately 66,000 cars use Mercury Boulevard each day.

In order to ease congestion through the corridor, the highway improvement project will enhance several vital areas. Plans call for replacing the traditional cloverleaf design at Mercury Boulevard interchange with ramps and flyovers and adding High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes down the center of the highway throughout the length of the project zone. The project also will add auxiliary –– continuous merge –– lanes from Hampton Roads Center Parkway through Mercury Boulevard interchange. In addition, both sides of the interstate will be widened throughout the project zone. Furthermore, every inch of asphalt and concrete in the work zone will be replaced by the time the project is completed.

The CCHIP contract includes work on seven bridges, two sound walls, drainage, signs, lighting and retaining walls. The contractor will bring in 180,000 sq. yds. (150,000 sq m) of concrete paving, 110,000 tons (100,000 t) of asphalt, and 325,000 cu. yds. (248,000 cu m) of borrow.

There will be a total of seven bridges built, replaced or improved in the work zone. E.V. Williams has subcontracted McLean Contracting Company, Glen Burnie, MD, to perform the work on the bridges. Work on the Mercury Boulevard bridge will consist of replacing the existing two spans with a single span, widening the bridge and adding HOV lanes to the middle of the bridge. The current Newmarket Creek Bridge will be widened and environmental barriers will be reinstalled to protect adjacent wetlands.

Crews demolished the old Magruder Boulevard Bridge and began construction of a taller and wider new overpass last year. While assembling the bridge, crews noticed a curvature of the beams that raised some concern. Since bridge beams must be properly curved in order to support the weight of the concrete bridge deck and cars that travel overhead, the fourth bridge beam had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repairs because it was improperly curved. The beam has been repaired and work continues on this bridge.

According to Don Lockard, project engineer of VDOT’s Williamsburg Residency, “The girders are back in place, and we are putting in the stay-in-place deck forms. We are anticipating [its completion] between December and February.”

Three new bridges will be built to accommodate flyover “J”, which will be the new entrance to I-64 westbound from Mercury Boulevard northbound. The first bridge crosses over I-64 and the second over Mercury Boulevard. The third bridge will cross the exit loop from I-64 westbound to Mercury Boulevard southbound.

Flyover “I”, the new exit from I-64 eastbound to Mercury Boulevard northbound, will consist of one bridge. This bridge will be built to allow a flyover to pass above the exit ramp from I-64 eastbound to Mercury Boulevard southbound and above the southbound lanes of Mercury Boulevard.

In addition to the bridge construction, a great deal of work will be performed on at least nine ramps. This includes building new exit and entrance ramps and widening and moving existing exit and entrance ramps.

VDOT and the construction team came upon a stumbling block after the 2.5-mi. (4 km) eastbound section of the project was completed in May. While accessing the pavement to make sure it meets specifications, ensuring safety for motorists, VDOT brought up concerns that there may be problems with water pooling on the pavement after heavy rainfalls. Pooling water can create a hazardous condition for motorists, possibly resulting in hydroplaning and loss of vehicle control.

In order to guarantee an independent analysis, Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet assembled people from numerous factions to conduct an independent survey of the I-64 pavement surface. The team included associates from VDOT’s district office in Northern Virginia and representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and the Branch Group, the parent company of E.V. Williams. The investigation confirmed that the drainage was the primary problem along the shoulder and that the problem must be corrected.

Even though the drainage problem needed to be corrected, the team determined that it did not warrant pavement removal. VDOT and the construction team decided to improve the drainage system by adding approximately 3 mi. (4.8 km) of trench drains along the shoulder. The drains will be located on both sides of the median barrier between the new lanes. Eight additional drainage openings will be installed and nearly 1,200 sq. yds. (1,000 sq m) of the new shoulder will be milled.

“The team has delivered the solution as promised, one that is safe, reasonable and cost efficient,” said Shucet in a press release in August. “The solution meets VDOT’s immediate goal to open this newly paved section of I-64 to traffic as soon as possible.”

Improvements to the drainage system, which will cost $2.7 million, began August 25 and will take 15 weeks to complete. VDOT’s Lockard estimates that the drainage repair work is 50 percent complete.

“By the end of November any problem drainage will be finished,” said Miller. “As soon as we’re done with the drainage, we will put traffic on here.”

Once drainage improvements are complete, VDOT will move traffic from the old eastbound lanes to the new ones. Construction crews will then begin improving the old eastbound lanes.

Shucet said that accountability is being dealt with very seriously as a result of the I-64 pavement issue. He requested and received the resignation of Frank Gee, VDOT’s chief engineer of operations. Shucet is also making more organizational changes to draw strict lines of accountability.