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I-81 progress steady, but more work on the way

May 31, 2002|by SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia Division of Highways officials said most of the Interstate 81 construction projects under way should be completed by the end of the summer.

But motorists driving through the Eastern Panhandle won't get a reprieve from construction because more projects will begin.

Carol Melling, director of public affairs for the Division of Highways, said four projects are near completion or will be completed by the end of the summer. On-site engineers say it is difficult to project when the projects will be completed.

Area engineer Bill Shanklin said setting a date of completion for these projects is difficult because many things factor into construction, including weather conditions.

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Projects under way include:

n The six-lane upgrade of I-81 from north of Exit 12 near mile post 12 to the Tuscarora Creek Bridge near mile post 14, a distance of 1.88 miles, is at the midway point with the end of June as the completion date.

Also included in this project is the construction of twin bridges, each with four lanes going north and southbound. Shanklin said the outer portions of the bridges are complete and construction on the inner portions should begin soon. Two lanes are open on each bridge.

n The replacement and widening of the King Street overpass is 75 percent completed, with a tentative completion date of September.

Shanklin said four of the structural beams for the bridge construction had to be returned due to defects.

n Foxcroft Avenue will be widened to four lanes. The entrance to Old Mill Road will be a right turn only, so motorists will have to take a left onto Foxcroft Avenue, and go around the block in order to enter the road, Shanklin said.

He said the reason for the widening is to ease the traffic congestion in that area. The completion date is tentatively set for the end of summer.

n The Dry Run Road interchange, to be Exit 14, leading to City Hospital is about 70 percent finished with a completion date of the end of June, but Shanklin said it may not be completed until August.

The project should be completed, but due to lack of rights-of-way and buried utility lines interfering with construction, the project was delayed a year, Shanklin said.

n The DuPont interchange bridge over W.Va. 901 project involves the replacement of the existing bridge and has just begun, Shanklin said.

The current bridge, off Exit 20, is the lowest one on I-81 in W.Va. Shanklin said it has been hit twice in two years, the reason why it needs replaced.

n Three of the six miles of the newly expanded I-81 that crosses Tuscarora Creek are open to motorists, while the other three miles are still under construction to be completed this fall, Shanklin said.

The projects will cost more than $33 million, Melling said.

Shanklin said the barriers will remain on I-81 for public safety. Two lanes will always be open during the day, and if construction requires the closing of one lane it will be done at night.

"We want minimal adverse affects on motorists," he said.

Future projects include:

n Melling said a bid will be placed later this summer for construction on the south Martinsburg interchange over W.Va. 45.

n A project on Exit 12 (Winchester Avenue exit), which involves replacing the bridge to accommodate six lanes, may go out to bid in September, Shanklin said.

The Exit 12 project will not begin until construction is finished at the King Street exit, he said.

n The DOH has plans to widen I-81 to six lanes from north Martinsburg from mile post 18 to Falling Waters just north of mile post 20, a distance of 3.45 miles.

This project is "not due for quite some time. You (motorists) might get a break in there," Melling said.

n The Martinsburg bypass, a long-range project that is in the initial planning stages. The planned bypass will extend off W.Va. 9 near the Eastern Regional Jail and reconnect at W.Va. 9 near the General Motors plant, Shanklin said.

Completed projects include: Widening of a four-mile stretch of I-81 north of King Street, the installation of three cable median barriers running six miles north of Exit 12 between the north and southbound lanes of I-81, and the north Martinsburg W.Va. 9 overpass, Shanklin said.

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