by Gretchen L.H. O’Brien, Bull Run Observer

4 May 2007, p. 4

“Typically, I’d consider a morning spent on Interstate 66 a bit of a bear.  However, this morning was a bit different. I got to ride along with Avtar Singh, an engineer with the Virginia Department ofTransportation (VDOT).

“Singh oversees the work on the I-66-U.S. 29 interchange, which he acknowledges will be a long project.  Singh has to factor in numerous road changes, lane closures and reopenings as well as contractor and driver safety when he makes plans for the interchange.  Even Nissan Pavilion’s schedule plays a role in the road plans, he said. No roadwork is done on Jimmy Buffet concert days.

“Every day, Singh drives around the dirt roads that will become paved roads one day.  He can visualize where roads will be, and he points out the new bridges that take the place of old ones. One of the bridges that will be replaced was built in [the] early 1960s, he said.

“All the bridges, he emphasized, are getting doubled, since the road size is getting doubled. That means four new bridges in the area.

“The end of the entire project is slated for Aug. 2, 2010. But Singh looks at the project in phases. Right now, the crews are working on the I-66 off-ramp to get on U.S. 29 south, which is exit 43A. Singh said the pending weekend closure of the ramp, from May 11 at 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. May 14, is necessary so VDOT work crews can create a 20-foot deep place for a pipe to go. The pipe, he explains, will cross all current and new lanes of 1-66 eventually. That pipe will make sure water does not build up on the roadways.

“Instead, the water will pool in the newly cleared area to the right of the I-66 on-ramp from U.S. 29 north, he said. That ramp is being reengineered as well. Currently, traffic from the Gainesville area merges on to I-66 east in a lane with drivers taking the U.S. 29 north exit.  That ‘weave,’ as it’s called, will no longer exist when the new ramp for I-66 east is complete.

“That ramp is slated to be completed in April 2008. Singh said VDOT has incentives for the contractor, Shirley Contracting Co. to finish the ramp on time. Singh sang the contractors’ praises as an experienced road company that’s big enough to handle the job.

“When the entire project is complete, I-66 will be four lanes in both the east and westbound directions past the U.S. 29 interchange.

“Driving on I-66 and U.S. 29, I could see what Singh pointed out.  I, too, could visualize what his intricately detailed office maps showed in all their many colors.  The colors, Singh explained, reveal phase plans.

“Singh understands drivers’ frustrations when they see the road and think it’s almost done. However, the Haymarket engineer pointed out traffic on the old portion of the road is transferred to the new portion; then the existing portion is completed, and then the crews have to create lanes for the new traffic.

“It would be easier and faster, Singh said, if the roadways could simply be closed and all the work could be done at once. However, he knows that’s an impossibility.  In the meantime, Singh is working to keep I-66 and U.S. 29 traffic running smoothly while work progresses.

“Updates are regularly posted on the VDOT Web site: under the ‘Northern Virginia’ link and then under the ‘I-66 Widening (Route 234 Bypass to Route 29).’ “