Major design features for truck climbing lanes on Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County have been approved by Virginia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Malcolm T. Kerley. The approval was given on March 13.
VDOT held a design public hearing concerning a truck climbing lane proposed for northbound Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County on Nov. 8.
The proposed project extends from mile marker 194.8 to 202.5 northbound on I-81 near Fairfield.
Based on citizen comment provided in the public hearing process, there are changes to some of the design features.
A proposed 12-ft. graded area and the proposed portions of the new bridges over Route 716 and Route 710 for a future travel lane will not be part of the project. A 5-ft. temporary paved shoulder to help maintain traffic during construction will be returned to a grass area at the conclusion of the project. Storm water basins will be designed to minimize as much as practical impacts on local farming operations. Various areas of the truck lane project will be evaluated for tree planting and landscaping in accordance with the local community’s request.
The proposed new Route 712 overpass, which will replace the existing bridge, will be built to accommodate the new truck climbing lanes with improved shoulders on each side of the I-81 through lanes plus additional capacity lanes that may be built in the future.
This project is in line with a resolution passed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in October 2006 that directed VDOT to implement a program of safety improvements to I-81, including construction of truck climbing lanes. About a dozen locations along steep grades on I-81 have been identified where climbing lanes would improve traffic flow and safety, with the Rockbridge location being a top priority for construction.
Total estimated cost of the project is $71.6 million, including $9.9 million for preliminary engineering, $709,000 for right-of-way acquisition and $61 million for construction. Construction is anticipated for late 2008.