Virginia DOT Widens I-64 to Aid Commuters
Applying Recycled Materials: Virginia DOT Utilizes Recycled Pavement on I-64 Widening
On a typical infrastructure project, there are a number of factors that engineers and construction crews need to consider. These factors include traffic, right of way, budgeting, contractors, and the Civil War. Well, the last one might not be typical but the Civil War, and the Battle of Williamsburg in particular, were relevant for the I-64 Widening Project in Virginia.
In 2013, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) completed an environmental study that identified congestion issues. I-64 is the main thoroughfare between Hampton Roads and Richmond and is one of the most heavily traveled areas in the corridor. I-64 was identified as a route that suffered from congestion due to the approximately 100,000 vehicles that utilize it on a daily basis. One area within the project had four lanes bottlenecking into two lanes and was a daily source of congestion.
The I-64 Widening Project will increase capacity, improve safety, and reduce congestion by adding one 12-foot travel lane and one 12-foot shoulder in each direction. In addition to widening the highway, the project includes widening and rehabilitating 17 bridges, and the widening and replacement of four bridges.
Studies Lead to Discoveries
The joint study by FHWA and VDOT also determined where widening would be the most feasible. The area where widening is taking place includes "federal land and other properties that are difficult to impact, and could take years to get permits," says Janet Hedrick PE, VDOT's Senior Design Project Manager for the project. "We found the best approach to accelerate construction, while also reducing impacts to adjacent properties and traffic, was to widen primarily within the median area."
However, a number of studies still had to be done in the surrounding area prior to any construction starting. These standard studies included traffic, pavement, infrastructure, noise, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, and archaeological. It was while doing the archaeological study that VDOT uncovered artifacts from the 1862 Battle of Williamsburg. Utilizing mostly metal detectors and excavation where needed, searchers found a bayonet, a French champagne bottle, canteen fragments, and mid- to late 19th century bullets. The materials were documented and sent to the Department of Historic Resources.
Multiple Project Segments
VDOT broke the project into three segments. Each segment is operationally independent, with its own plans, contract, contractors, and budget. The reason VDOT broke up the project into three separate segments is related to financing as each segment had to be fully funded before work could proceed. Waiting to get the entire 21-mile section funded would have meant putting off starting the project. In addition to federal and state funding sources, money for the project was raised locally based on legislation passed in the Hampton Roads area to create the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund (HRTF). A local sales tax was implemented, and proceeds from that are strictly allocated to transportation construction projects in the region.
Segment one, which was completed on December 1, 2017, included 5.3 miles of I-64 and was worked on first because it was the most congested area of the highway. Segment two, which includes a 7.1-mile stretch of highway is on schedule to be completed by May. Segment three spans 8.2 miles. Construction began on the final segment in August 2018, and it is expected to be completed in the fall of 2021.
Streamlining the Process
VDOT, which aims to deliver projects as efficiently as possible for the public, used the design-build model, a more streamlined process that allows construction to start while design is still underway. "We're able to perform design, utility relocation, and some construction work at the same time," says Hedrick.
While going this route speeds up construction, it can also be challenging due to the many moving parts that need to come together. "Communication is needed between all stakeholders," says Joe Ludwig PE, who is serving as VDOT's Area Construction Engineer on the project. For this project, they have weekly meetings with the project team and monthly project meetings with other stakeholders.
Because of the complexities of timing and coordination, the procurement process for selecting a contractor was more than simply choosing the lowest bidder. "We chose a contractor based on technical ability and bid price," says Hedrick. "We wanted to ensure we had a contractor that was ready, able, and fully qualified to perform a project of this magnitude." To ensure scheduling and coordination, contractors had to submit baseline schedules at the very beginning. VDOT reviews the schedules to confirm that activities can be performed concurrently as shown and to verify that they will complete on time.
Keeping Commuters in Mind
As I-64 is a heavily used interstate, construction has had to proceed with commuters in mind. "We balance the challenge of staying on schedule and keeping traffic moving by limiting lane closures primarily to overnight," says Brittany McBride Nichols, Communications Specialist for VDOT. Ludwig adds, VDOT has maintained two lanes of traffic during daytime hours. However, that has meant traffic shifts, miles of concrete barriers, and utilizing existing shoulders as travel lanes.
When such things are implemented, accidents can happen. This, plus other incidents, can cause major backups. Therefore, VDOT has a tow truck on site 24/7. "They've had a very quick response time, and it has been a very valuable asset," says Hedrick. The State Police presence also helps to calm traffic, make the work zone safer, and keep traffic moving in case of an incident.
Using Recycled Materials
As part of segments two and three of the project, existing pavements are being removed and reconstructed. The new pavements, as well as the reconstruction of the existing lanes, are making use of stockpiles of recycled materials around the state. The process, which is fairly new, is called Cold Central Plant Recycling (CCPR). It is being done in conjunction with the Full Depth Reclamation (FDR) process, which utilizes recycled existing pavement onsite onto the new pavement foundation. This project is currently one of the largest pavement recycling projects in the U.S.
CCPR uses reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) created from the road millings of construction projects around the region. To make the CCPR material, RAP and fine stone aggregate are fed into a mobile mixing plant, where the materials are bound together using foamed asphalt and cement, producing up to 220 tons of product per hour. Crews pave the CCPR on top of an open graded drainage layer and a subbase layer of FDR material or recycled crushed concrete. In total, these first layers of the pavement structure have a total thickness of nearly 18 inches and are almost entirely produced from recycled materials.
This green element of the project is helping save a lot of green for Virginia taxpayers. VDOT estimates that utilizing these environmentally friendly processes and recycled materials will result in over $15 million cost savings total for segments two and three.
While the process is new, it has great potential. "The industry has large stockpiles of the RAP material from prior projects, so we could be using this process on future projects," says Ludwig.
Hedrick adds, “We are studying how it’s performing by placing instrumentation sensors in the pavement. We're planning to see great results from these recycling techniques."
As the I-64 Widening Project continues, the benefits are already being felt. "We've received quite a few compliments about traffic flow, and people are very happy it was addressed," says McBride Nichols. When the final segment is complete, commuters along the busy corridor will be able to more easily and safely to their destination and know they are doing so on a green road.