Public meeting scheduled for Route 33 bridge construction over I-81 in Harrisonburg

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Virginia Department of Transportation will have a public hearing to discuss construction projects along heavily-used bridges in Harrisonburg.

VDOT will hold a public hearing to receive input from people in the area on the project | Photo: WHSV

According to VDOT, a proposed project will replace four bridges on Route 33, including those that cross Interstate 81 at Exit 247 in the heart of Harrisonburg.

Vdot says the project is designed to also improve the operations of Interstate 81 at Exit 247. The work will primarily be along Rt. 33 between North Carlton Street and Linda Lane.

The project includes a new shared use path in the median of Route 33 beginning at the intersection of Burgess Road and Lina Lane and extending across the new bridges to Martin Luther King Way.

In a press release, VDOT officials said a single new bridge will replace the Route 33 eastbound and westbound bridges over I-81. The bridge will have two lanes in each direction. Reconstruction will be done at the new bridges' approaches.

In addition, a single new bridge will replace the Route 33 eastbound and westbound bridges over Norfolk Southern Railroad and Blacks Run.

"The northbound side of the interchange will receive improvements in both the southeastern and northeastern quadrants, which will eliminate the weave movements occurring on I-81 at the deceleration and acceleration ramps," wrote VDOT in its press release.

Approval of the project plans is scheduled for spring 2020. An advertisement for construction is scheduled for fall 2021.

According to VDOT, in 2018, Route 33 had an average daily traffic count of 31,000 vehicles per day. Officials said the bridges were built in 1960 and have reached the end of their service life.

During construction, VDOT expects to have have two lanes in each direction on Route 33 maintained and it is planned to have much of the work be completed at night to lessen the impacts of travelers. However, occasionally, there may be single lane closures for some of the work. Nobody will be allowed to walk through the work zone while it is being completed.

New traffic lights will be installed in the area and there will be changes to the deceleration and acceleration ramps at Exit 247 along I-81.

A public meeting is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center. If there is inclement weather, the meeting will be moved to Tuesday, Dec. 7 during the same times at the same location.

Those attending will have an opportunity to talk about the project one-on-one with VDOT officials and designers.

Ken Slack, who is a spokesperson for VDOT, said that the meeting is an opportunity for people to come out and give their opinion of the project during the planning phase.

"Sometimes the residents and the folks who use this roadway think of something that we haven't, so we reach out to the public now and get an idea of what the best design is going forward," said Slack.

Written comments can be submitted at the meeting or within 10 days after the meeting date to Mr. John-Allen Ennis, P.E., Project Manager. Virginia Department of Transportation, 811 Commerce Road, Staunton, VA 24401-9029.

You can read the full press release from VDOT below:

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The Virginia Department of Transportation will hold a design public hearing for improvements to Interstate 81 Exit 247 ramps and Route 33 (East Market Street) bridges over I-81 and Norfolk Southern Railroad. This project includes a shared use path in the median of Route 33. The meeting will take place from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, December 12, 2019 at Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, 620 Simms Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802. The inclement weather date is Tuesday, December 17, 2019, 4-7 p.m. at the same location.

Citizens can come in during the meeting hours and discuss the project on a one-on-one basis with VDOT officials and designers. Written comments can be submitted at the meeting or within 10 days after the meeting date to Mr. John-Allen Ennis, P.E., Project Manager. Virginia Department of Transportation, 811 Commerce Road, Staunton, VA 24401-9029. Oral comments can be recorded at the meeting with the assistance of a court reporter

This project is in the City of Harrisonburg and is 0.8 miles long, extending from just west of North Carlton Street to just east of Linda Lane.

This project replaces four bridges on Route 33 (East Market Street) and improves the operations of Intestate 81 Exit 247. The project includes a new shared use path in the median of Route 33 beginning at the Burgess Road and Linda Lane intersection, extending across the new bridges to Martin Luther King Way.

The four bridges were built in 1960 and have reached the end of their service life. A single new bridge will replace the Route 33 eastbound and westbound bridges over I-81. A single new bridge will replace the Route 33 eastbound and westbound bridges over Norfolk Southern Railroad and Blacks Run. Reconstruction of Route 33 will be done at the new bridges’ approaches. All the new bridges will have two lanes in each direction with reconstructed approaches.

The northbound side of the interchange will receive improvements in both the southeastern and northeastern quadrants, which will eliminate the weave movements occurring on I-81 at the deceleration and acceleration ramps.

In the southeastern quadrant the loop ramp will be removed, which currently serves traffic from Route 33 eastbound to northbound I-81. In the area of the removed ramp, the northbound I-81 deceleration lane to the westbound Route 33 ramp will be extended.

In the northeast quadrant Route 33 eastbound traffic will enter northbound I-81 from a new ramp constructed to connect with the existing northbound I-81 acceleration ramp. A new left-turn lane with a new traffic signal will be built for eastbound Route 33 traffic to enter the northbound acceleration ramp.

Additional construction on the southeast quadrant includes a spur ramp from the northbound I-81 deceleration ramp to eastbound Route 33. This spur ramp will serve traffic making the left turn onto Linda Lane. The dual left-turn lanes along eastbound Route 33 at Linda Lane will be extended to accommodate the new spur ramp. A narrow raised median between the left-turn lane and westbound Route 33 will be constructed.

The southbound side of the interchange will receive improvements in both the southwestern and northwestern quadrants, which will provide additional space.

In the southwest quadrant, the westbound Route 33 left-turn lane onto the southbound I-81 acceleration ramp will be reconstructed and extended.

In the northwest quadrant, the southbound I-81 deceleration ramp onto westbound Route 33 will be realigned in order to provide a longer merge area onto Route 33.

In all four quadrants, as needed, there will be reconstruction of merge lanes and tie-ins from acceleration and deceleration ramps around the bridges.

In 2018 Route 33 had an average daily traffic count of 31,000 vehicles per day. By the design year of 2045 the estimated average daily traffic volume is 40,000 vehicles per day.

Approval of project plans is scheduled for spring 2020 with right of way activities beginning in early 2021. Advertisement for construction is currently scheduled for fall 2021.

The total estimated cost for this project is $59,921,508, including $4,009,501 for preliminary engineering, $995,758 for right of way and $54,916,249 for construction.

During construction two lanes in each direction on Route 33 will be maintained. It is anticipated that much of the construction will be done at night to lessen traffic impacts. Occasional temporary single lane closures may be necessary to move materials or construction equipment. Pedestrian traffic through the work zone will be prohibited throughout the life of the project.

The completed project will increase safety in the area by replacing four aging bridges and maximizing traffic operations and traffic flow on Route 33 and Interstate 81 at exit 247. The project provides greater pedestrian access with the inclusion of a shared use path in the median.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany and Bath counties.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at 511Virginia.org. For other assistance call the VDOT Customer Service Center, available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. Citizens can dial 1-800-FOR- ROAD (1-800-367-7623) from anywhere in the state to report road hazards, ask transportation questions, or get information related to Virginia’s roads.

The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at www.VirginiaDOT.org.