PUTNAM COUNTY — From a construction zone overlooking the I-64 Nitro/St. Albans Bridge at the point where it crosses over the Kanawha River, Gov. Jim Justice joined United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito and West Virginia Department of Transportation officials Wednesday afternoon for a ceremony to celebrate the start of work on a major project in the area to enhance the existing bridge and add a second bridge to better serve motorists traveling the high-traffic section of interstate.
According to news release from the governor’s office, the $224.4 million project is part of Gov. Justice’s Roads To Prosperity program.
“From the standpoint of congestion, this project right here has been so badly needed for a long, long time,” Gov. Justice said. “We went to the people and passed the Roads To Prosperity program and, with the help of our Congressional delegation, and through the great work of the men and women of our Department of Transportation, with all of us pulling the rope together, look where we’re at. We’re not just talking about doing something. We are doing something right now.”
The project, which is being completed by the joint venture of Brayman Construction and Trumbull Construction, calls for 3.8 miles of I-64 to be widened from four lanes to six lanes, including the section between the Nitro and St. Albans interchanges, which will be further widened to eight lanes.
Work will consist of building an entirely new bridge over the Kanawha River, north of the existing bridge. Traffic will be shifted to the new bridge. Then, additional work will be performed to rehabilitate and modernize the existing I-64 Nitro/St. Albans Bridge – also known as the Donald M. Legg Memorial Bridge.
After improvement work on the existing bridge is complete, it will reopen to motorists, but only for eastbound traffic on I-64 in the direction of Charleston. Once eastbound traffic shifts back to the existing bridge, the new bridge will carry solely westbound traffic on I-64 in the direction of Huntington.
The project also includes the complete replacement of I-64 bridges over CR 29 (Rocky Step Road), CR 33/5 (McCloud Road), and WV 25, Conrail Railroad, CR 25/30 at the Nitro interchange. Additionally CR 44 (Bills Creek Road) Bridge over I-64 will be replaced and the St. Albans interchange will be reconfigured, including the ramp connection to WV 817.
The project is currently projected to be finished by October 2024.
Construction crews began moving dirt this winter and into the spring, clearing trees along the interstate to make space for the project. Wednesday’s ceremony celebrated the imminent start of roadwork for the project, which is being funded by a combination of federal and state dollars.
“We’re working together on this great project here,” Senator Capito said. “As a resident of the Kanawha Valley, I know how difficult, sometimes, Interstate 64 can get, going from Charleston to Huntington, particularly here at the Nitro/St. Albans Bridge, where it narrows and can cause some real safety concerns. Safety, I think, is of the utmost importance when you’re looking at good transportation corridors, and I’m glad to see that the Governor is making that a high priority in his administration.”
Gov. Justice was also joined for Wednesday’s ceremony by WVDOT Secretary & WVDOH Commissioner Byrd White and by WVDOT Deputy Secretary & WVDOH Deputy Commissioner Jimmy Wriston, P.E.
“Governor Justice has always been a big proponent of improving our state’s roadways,” Secretary White said. “Without his vision, most of these road projects would not happen. It takes a man who looks out to the future. This project will benefit people for a long time, and he always thinks, ‘What can I do for the future of West Virginia.’”
WVDOT officials estimate the improvements will provide another 100 years of service life to travelers.
“Projects like this are all about leadership,” Deputy Secretary Wriston said. “They’re about people with a vision and people who can put that vision on the ground.”
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Gov. Justice also announced that he has signed a proclamation expanding Work Zone Safety Week to the entire month of April.
“The Governor’s vision to expand our Work Zone Safety period from a week to a month is the kind of commitment we need from all West Virginians,” Deputy Secretary Wriston said. “On our end with the DOH, we’re not going to settle for just meeting our required safety standards. We’re going to go above and beyond. We’re going to be committed to our national campaign to work towards zero deaths on our highways.”
“When you look at this project here, it’s 3.8 miles. The difference between going through that work zone at 70 miles per hour and going through it at 50 miles per hour is less than a minute,” Secretary White said. “People who are speeding through work zones aren’t saving any money, they are not saving any time, but they are risking somebody’s life. We want all of our workers and all of our contractor’s workers to go home to their families safely every night.”
Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.