The western region of Richmond near Short Pump has experienced a dramatic increase in population and commerce in the last five years. Of course, traffic has increased significantly as a result. In addition, the completion of Route 288 in late 2004 brought even more travelers to the Short Pump area from the south side of Richmond. By 2005, the section of I-64 between Route 288 and Broad Street, a frequently congested area during rush hour, had more than 55,000 cars per day, with that number expected to increase to 74,000 cars per day by 2026.
In April 2006, English Construction Company of Lynchburg, Virginia, began construction on a $49-million project to improve the I-295/I-64 interchange in western Henrico County, widen Pouncey Tract Road and construct a new flyover ramp from I-64 east to I-295 south. The flyover ramp and additional lanes will improve the flow of traffic on I-64 between I-295 and Route 288. It will also improve the traffic along Pouncey Tract Road between Broad Street and Twin Hickory Lake Drive.
The project is being built in phases with work going on for the I-295 flyover ramp and the Pouncey Tract Road widening simultaneously. Completing the work on Pouncey Tract Road is the first significant milestone. "The public wants this done as quickly as possible, so there is an incentive/disincentive for the contractor," says Ray Johnston, P.E., project manager with the Virginia Department of Transportation. The new bridge on Pouncey Tract Road must also be finished in order to complete work on the I-295 flyover ramp.
Construction on Pouncey Tract Road involves replacing the existing two-lane bridge over I-64 with a new four-lane bridge. The bridge will be 338 feet long with a raised median, sidewalks and aluminum railing on each side. In addition, modifications will be made to the first traffic signal north of Broad Street, which intersects Pouncey Tract Road at one end of the project.
Currently, English has nearly finished two lanes and half of the bridge on the Pouncey Tract Road project. Once traffic is switched to the new construction in August, the remaining two lanes and the other half of the bridge will be completed.
"The main problem with rebuilding the Pouncey Tract bridge is all of the traffic due to the mall and the subdivisions," says Johnston. The new four-lane road will improve traffic flow, and once the old Pouncey Tract bridge is demolished, work can proceed on that portion of the I-295 flyover ramp.
Improving the I-295/I-64 interchange involves adding a lane to the outside of I-64 in both directions between Route 288 and Route 250 (Broad St.). In addition, the current one-lane ramp from I-295 north to westbound I-64 will be increased to two lanes. A major focus of this portion of the project, however, is constructing the new two-lane flyover ramp that will carry eastbound I-64 traffic to I-295 south. The ramp will be 1,765 feet long and 35 feet above I-64.
Several of the piers are in various stages of completion, and Johnston points out that two of these structures are actually straddle bents. "One of the things that's unique about this (ramp) is it has two straddle bents. The longitudinal girders are integral with the straddle bents. The longitudinal girders don't sit on top of the bent cap; they are integral with the bent. This saves the bridge from being higher."
The straddle bents pose a challenge on this project because the flyover ramp is curved, so aligning the girders from the straddle bent to the abutment is challenging and precise.
"The straddle bent is made out of steel, and all of the anchor bolts have to fit pretty tight," says Johnston. "The girders come out of the straddle bent rather than sitting on top. How you set the straddle bent onto the pier caps ... (affects) where the longitudinal girder is going to sit at the abutment. There is very little room for adjustment. A 1/16-inch on these bolts has to match the abutment, which is two spans away. If it's off a little at the pier, than it's off a lot at the abutment."
The project team is currently in Phase 1 and about a year into the project. According to Walter Waymack, project engineer with English Construction, the project is going well. Everyone on the team, however, agrees that traffic control and planning the project's detours have been the most challenging tasks. "The biggest challenge is keeping the public going on their way to where they are going, but also getting the work done in a timely manner."
Pouncey Tract Road is scheduled for completion by spring 2008. By fall 2008, the additional lanes on I-64 will be finished, and motorists will begin using the new flyover ramp. The entire project will be finished by spring 2009.
Editor's note: Additional material provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation.