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Project to Reduce ’Near Misses’ During Trips to Airport

Tue November 20, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

Airport Drive at Richmond International Airport will soon be rid of a flawed intersection near the toll plaza that is notorious for its thousands of near misses as well as a number of nonfatal collisions.

The roadway is an important artery for major shipping companies and travelers who fly in and out of the airport, which is in Henrico County, Va.

Branch Highways Inc. of Roanoke, Va., has been awarded a $13.3 million contract to realign and improve Airport Drive and to perform work on terminal access roads.

The Capital Region Airport Commission (CRAC) owns and operates Richmond International Airport and is responsible for the management of this project. John Rutledge, CRAC’s director of planning and engineering, said work began in late spring 2007 and is expected to be completed by early fall 2008.

The contract includes widening a section of Airport Drive (Route 60 to Charles City Road) to a four-lane divided roadway and incorporating turn lanes between North Clarkson Road and Charles City Road. In addition, two flyover structures, or bridges, will be built. Another significant improvement, according to Rutledge, is that there will be “dedicated lanes for terminal-bound traffic.”

Mike Higgins, Branch Highways’ project manager, added that the existing alignment of Airport Drive will be improved. Higgins described the road as “congested and winding” and said the work involves “straightening out the road.”

Ultimately, the notorious intersection near the toll plaza will go away and nothing will impede traffic traveling either direction from Charles City Road to Route 60. The Airport Drive upgrades also will provide improved access to the Richmond International Airport parking garages and terminal buildings.

When finished, the two flyovers will separate traffic coming into and out of the airport. One flyover will be for southbound traffic on Airport Drive approaching the parking garages and terminal. According to Rutledge, the flyover will “allow southbound traffic to go up and over the northbound lanes into the terminal.”

The second flyover will take northbound traffic on Airport Drive over Clarkson Road.

One flyover will be a Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) bridge, and the other will be a smaller MSE bridge with conventional abutments and a large quantity of backfill. Branch Highways has hired subcontractor DLB Construction of Hillsville, Va, for the bridge work.

Higgins stated that 25,000 to 30,000 cu. yd. (19,000 to 22,900 cu m) of excavation will be performed on site. Roughly 100,000 cu. yd. (76,500 cu m) of borrow will be brought in to complete the bridge fills.

“Borrow material is coming from locations on the airport property itself,” explained Higgins.

Since the project consists entirely of road hauling, Simons Hauling Co. Inc. of Richmond, Va., has been subcontracted to move the borrow.

“We have more of a traditional articulated dump truck, like Volvos,” Higgins said, “so we’re utilizing the services of Simons Hauling.”

In addition to earthmoving, Simons Hauling is performing much of the on site water, sewer and utility work. The asphalt paving, including furnishing asphalt and installing it, is being carried out by Lee Hy Paving Corporation of Glen Allen, Va.

Branch Highways is doing most of the road work. Its workers are using a variety of excavators including a John Deere 330 long-carriage excavator. A Daewoo 300 long carriage excavator is also on hand for storm drainage installation, loading borrow material and on site excavation.

“They are definitely multipurpose machines for us,” Higgins remarked.

Richmond International Airport is being improved in many ways in addition to the Airport Drive upgrade. This is happening as a result of an increase in passengers, air service and cargo activities. In recent months, construction of a new terminal and an air traffic control tower has been completed.

Furthermore, the number of gates and parking spaces has been increased to accommodate the airport’s growth. In the long run, Airport Drive will be one of the last pieces needed to complete a beltway around the city of Richmond because, eventually, it will be connected to I-895. CEG

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