BECKLEY, W.Va. — During the monthly meeting of the Parkways Authority Board held at Tamarack Thursday, General Manager Greg Barr said he anticipates motorists traveling on Interstate 77 soon will have more room to navigate through an especially narrow work zone currently in place in Raleigh County.
“The Harper Road exit ramps (at Exit 44) have been narrow and kind of circuitous to get on and off the interstate. Those are going to go back to almost 90 percent normal within the next three weeks,” Barr told MetroNews. “The plan was to keep two lanes moving in both directions for the entire duration of the project. Well, the way that was accomplished was to narrow the lanes a bit — 10-foot lanes instead of 12-foot lanes — narrow the shoulders and put in the median walls.”
Barr said mild weather during the previous winter helped to keep construction for the Beckley Widening Project (BW-1-18) on track for it’s estimated completion date of mid-2022. Construction began in November 2018, after a contract was awarded to Saint Albans-based Triton Construction, Inc. by the West Virginia Division of Highways.
Though the length of highway being modified between the Route 19 interchange and the I-64/I-77 split is less than eight miles, Barr said the existence of eight bridge decks within the work zone unavoidably adds to the amount of time needed to complete the overall project.
“The decision is whether to overlay them or replace the decks, so that’s what we’re talking about,” explained Barr. “We’ve got to look at the total life cycle cost of latex-modified concrete versus bridge deck replacement. Granted, bridge deck replacement is more expensive but, over time, will that be a better decision? So, you look out 10, 15, 20, 25 years and then compare, and it becomes somewhat of an engineering analysis, and we have to get DOH to take a look at that too before we can make a final decision.”
The Beckley-area widening of the West Virginia Turnpike was one of the original General Obligation Bond projects announced under Gov. Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity program. The proposal was first considered by the Parkways Authority in 2006 but was deemed too expensive to undertake, at the time.