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Construction activity now underway on the Interstate 64 widening and bridge replacement project between the Nitro and Scott Depot interchanges became even busier Tuesday, when the first in a series of daily rock-clearing blasts was detonated at the site of a new St. Albans access ramp.

Rolling roadblocks that began at the Cross Lanes and Scott Depot interchanges kept I-64 devoid of traffic in the vicinity of the blast in the moments immediately preceding and following Tuesday’s 12:30 p.m. detonation.

Moments after the explosion rumbled through the rocky overburden at the new ramp’s construction site, the area was inspected to make sure all charges that had been set had detonated, and that the existing interchange lanes were free of debris.

Less than three minutes after an all-clear signal was sounded, traffic on I-64 had resumed its normal pace, and the St. Albans interchange reopened.

“We’re trying to disrupt traffic as little as possible while construction is underway,” said Jason Hamilton, district construction engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways. “We’re keeping all four lanes of I-64 open, although, later, we will have to narrow the lanes and reduce the speed limit.”

Weather and construction activity permitting, one blast per day is scheduled for the construction zone each weekday between noon and 2 p.m., through the end of August, Hamilton said. Blasting eventually will occur on both sides of the interstate.

On each occasion, personnel from city, county and state law enforcement agencies will guide traffic through the blast zones at reduced speed, through the use of carefully timed and coordinated running roadblocks.

The $224 million improvement project now underway involves widening I-64 to six lanes between the Nitro and Scott Depot interchanges and building two new bridges to carry the interstate across the Kanawha River. All work is scheduled for completion in October 2023.

A separate $103.8 million project to widen I-64 to six lanes between the Barboursville exit and Huntington’s 29th Street exit is expected to be complete by August 2024.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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