Commuters traveling to and from work in Charleston from communities west of the city can expect 60 days of traffic delays once work begins Saturday on a bridge deck replacement project on the state’s most heavily used highway segment.
About 105,000 vehicles a day travel on Interstate 64 between its Oakwood Road and Montrose Drive interchanges, where the construction-targeted Danner Road Overpass bridge is located.
“This is going to be a doozy,” Deputy Division of Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston said during a press briefing Tuesday near the site of the project. “We’re going to have a lot of delays and we’re going to have a lot of congestion with this project.”
While two lanes in each direction will remain open to vehicles for the duration of the planned 60 days of construction, “with this volume of traffic, things can jam up quickly,” Wriston said.
The Danner Road Overpass rebuild is the last remaining element of Charleston-area interstate highway bridge deck work to be completed under a $19.5 million contract with Brayman Construction of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania.
Wriston said Brayman completed the replacement of three overpass bridge decks and the resurfacing of a fourth in the vicinity of Charleston’s I-64/I-77 split nine days earlier than the contracted deadline of 100 days.
“We’re going to work as quickly and as safely as possible” on the Danner Road overpass, Wriston said. “We’re going to try to minimize the congestion and the disruption, but we all need to work together to keep everyone safe.”
Once complete, the project will “extend the life of the bridge for decades,” Wriston said.
Phase I of the project, set to begin at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, involves completely removing the bridge deck on I-64’s three eastbound lanes and replacing it with new steel reinforced concrete supported by the span’s existing steel I-beams. Eastbound traffic will be shifted to the westbound side of the interstate, where a temporary concrete median barrier will separate two lanes of eastbound traffic from two lanes of westbound traffic, using breakdown lanes to create a fourth lane.
Phase II, expected to begin 30 days after work begins on Phase I, repeats the process on the westbound lanes of the interstate.
For the length of the project, the entrance ramp to westbound I-64 from the Oakwood Road interchange will be closed, as will the Virginia Street entrance ramp to westbound I-64. Oakwood Road’s westbound I-64 traffic will be detoured via MacCorkle Avenue to the Montrose Drive interchange, while westbound traffic from Virginia Street will be detoured along Pennsylvania Avenue and Washington Street West to the Lee Street on ramp.
Drivers traveling through the construction zone were urged to “pay attention to the road signs and pay attention to the commuters around you,” by Division of Highways District 1 construction engineer Gary Mullins. “We don’t want to have any more fatalities like we had last year on I-64.”
Mullins was referring to two motor vehicle crashes involving three deaths that took place in I-64 construction zones in Putnam and Cabell counties in 2018.
“Let’s stay off the cellphones and obey the [50 mile-per-hour construction zone] speed limit,” said Wriston. “Pay attention and don’t be distracted. The people who are working there need to go home at the end of the day.”
Commuters may want to consider planning alternative routes to and from work to avoid I-64 construction delays during the period, Wriston said.
Signs warning about construction zone delays and congestion will be placed at locations longer distances than usual from construction work, and a series of radio public service announcements will be aired to make commuters aware of the work. Traffic directors will be stationed at the site to respond immediately to traffic flow issues, instead of waiting for police to arrive, according to DOH officials.
Work on the project will take place around the clock, seven days a week, until completion.