Va. Beach Road to Be Less a Pain in the Birdneck

Thu July 05, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni



E.V. Williams Inc. has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on numerous projects over the years. The latest project is the Birdneck Road widening project in Virginia Beach, Va.

The Virginia Beach-based firm was awarded a $27.9 million contract to widen the two-lane road into a four-lane divided road. VDOT, Williams and the city of Virginia Beach are working together to complete the project in a safe and timely manner.

Terry Morrison, VDOT’s project inspector for the Birdneck Road project, said there are benefits that come with working with a contractor over the years.

“E.V. is one of two or three contractors that do VDOT’s major road construction projects,” Morrison said. “We are familiar with them and with that familiarity, the job becomes easier. We know the people, and it’s not a learning process.”

The engineers at E.V. Williams acknowledge the importance of coordinating between the city, VDOT, the contractor and even local utility companies. Aaron Evans, project engineer of E.V. Williams, explained, “VDOT and the city of Virginia Beach have been more than helpful with the traffic arrangements.”

Lane closures during construction can occur for a variety of reasons, like cutting down trees, moving equipment or cleaning the road, but Brian Basnight, field engineer of E.V. Williams, said, “The city, state and Williams are collaborating to make lane closures as easy as possible.”

In addition, specific departments, like public works and public utilities, have a presence at the job site. Morrison explained that the city has representatives on hand during construction, and “it is helpful having them here the whole time.”

There also needs to be communication between the utility companies, like Cox Communications and Verizon, which provide service to most homes located on Birdneck, and the contractor.

Basnight is the self-proclaimed “PR Guy” who has the task of informing homeowners and businesses up and down Birdneck of the work that will be occurring on or near their property. Basnight also manages the Global Positioning System (GPS) keeping a collector that contains the details of the entire project.

The project consists of upgrading and widening Birdneck Road from East General Booth Boulevard to North Southern Boulevard/Norfolk Avenue, roughly a 2.1-mi. (3.4 km) stretch. Currently the road is two lanes with trees, houses and businesses on each side. The new road will be a four-lane divided road that will feature an 8-ft. (2.4 m) wide bike path on the east side of Birdneck and a 5-ft. (1.5 m) wide sidewalk on the west side. Trees will have to be taken down, but no homes or businesses will be removed.

Furthermore, the contract includes grading, drainage improvements, asphalt paving, planting, signal work and installation of various utilities. Crews are working daytime hours throughout the week with an occasional Saturday and some evening work.

Evans said, “There will be some night work that wouldn’t be feasible during the day.”

Williams began construction in late February and so far has performed clearing, grading, utility installation and pipe laying at various locations on the project. Some paving has been completed where sections of the road have already been widened to accommodate traffic during construction. Erosion control measures are being performed as well. Three sediment ponds are being created and silt fences, or filter barriers, are being erected.

Presently, 4,000 cu. yds. (3,000 cu m) of earthmoving has been performed, and the contractor has a 21,000 cu. yd. (16,000 cu m) stock pile to work with. E.V. Williams keeps a John Deere 270LC excavator and a Volvo EW170 excavator on the job for earthmoving.

A staging area is located around the corner from the project site where topsoil is dumped, and VDOT-approved select fill is loaded onto the contractor’s dump trucks using a Cat 953C crawler loader.

Since there are so many utilities to be located on this project before any work can be started, Williams uses a utility locator truck made out of one of its flat bed trucks. A Ditch Witch 500 FX30 utility locator in installed on the bed of the truck, which is operated by John Hancock, an E.V. Williams employee.

Hancock said the machine can complete a digging job in 8 minutes that would take roughly 30 minutes to dig by hand. The length of time also depends on soil conditions; clay conditions, for example, take longer. The Ditch Witch uses water to cut through the dirt and then suctions it out. The hole also is smaller than one produced by hand digging, and the utilities don’t get damaged using this piece of equipment.

E.V. Williams has subcontractors on the project performing tasks such as utility work, asphalt paving and concrete work, to name a few. Chesapeake, Va.-based Vico Construction Corp. is performing the pipe work, as well as the sanitary, sewer and water installations. Vico has several excavators on the project, including a John Deere 225C LC, a John Deere 490E and a John Deere 240D LC. Vico is installing 16-in. (41 cm) sanitary sewer lines and 10-in. (25 cm) water main lines.

Additional subcontractors include Branscome Companies’ paving division, with plants throughout Hampton Roads, performing the asphalt paving; and B & H Construction of Ashland, Va., performing the concrete work. The Mideast Division of Vulcan Materials Company is supplying materials for the Birdneck Road project.

Birdneck Road is a popular artery all year, however, it becomes more congested during the summer months when tourists arrive for vacations. According to Morrison, in 2005 the average daily traffic volume was 17,000 vehicles.

“By 2028, they project that number to be 30,000,” Morrison said. “The city said it needed to be four lanes.”

When completed in April 2011, the project should enhance the safety and capacity of the roadway while providing a smoother commute. CEG