Drivers who use Interstates 77 and 79 north of Charleston for their daily commute will have to put up with delays and construction for several more months.
Several construction projects are either ongoing or in the works along the heavily-travelled stretches of interstate, state highways officials said.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said work replacing expansion joints on the Interstate 79 overpass just before the Mink Shoals exit is scheduled to be finished by the end of the week. Construction crews have been working about three weeks on a $311,000 project to replace expansion joints on the overpass and lay down a new deck on the Private First Class Charles M. Conner Bridge closer to town.
Traffic has been restricted to a single lane in the construction zone. Walker said that once work is finished on the overpass, all four lanes will be reopened.
However, in about two weeks Interstate 79 will again be shut down to one lane in either direction to put a new deck on the Conner Memorial Bridge, Walker said. That work is expected to take an additional two or three weeks.
Walker said crews will do the work mostly at night in an attempt to reduce congestion at the bridge.
Construction crews also began work this week on a stretch of Interstate 79 that starts at the Elkview exit and stretches almost to the 14 mile marker, Walker said. The work is part of a $4.9 million paving project.
Again, traffic will be reduced to a single lane in either direction as old pavement is milled off and new pavement put down. Once one lane is finished, the other lane will be closed and resurfaced, Walker said.
“They’re working 24-7,” Walker said. “It will be continuous, with the thought of wrapping that [project] up in November.”
Walker said bridge and road work also continues on Interstate 77 just south of the Edens Fork exit. The construction zone, near mile marker 103, was the site of an accident in May, when Auvil Whited, 97, of Nitro, drove through a lane closed for construction, flipped his car and landed on a nearby hillside.
Walker said the construction zone was properly marked, orange construction barrels were in place and signs and arrows were posted warning motorists that the lane was closed.
The work is part of a $5.4 million job that includes bridge decking and structural steel repairs.
“There was some work that was required because of [Whited’s] accident,” Walker said, but the wreck did not seriously affect the construction timetable.
He said both northbound lanes are expected to be reopen by Sept. 1. Southbound lanes are expected to reopen in mid-October.
Walker said final plans have not yet been discussed with the contractors, but he said highways officials may ask that all four lanes of both interstates be reopen for West Virginia University home football games to ease traffic congestion.
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