The widening project on Interstate 64 will yield more than just extra lanes — it will include a couple of important items that drivers are unlikely to ever notice.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is also upgrading drainage systems on the interstate by adding new, larger pipes and installing additional stormwater management facilities, said VDOT spokeswoman Brittany McBride.
The stormwater management facilities provide stormwater control and address potential erosion, but also provide a measure of water quality treatment as they filter stormwater runoff, McBride added.
"The stormwater management systems installed are permanent, requiring only maintenance," McBride wrote in an email.
State officials are also using the project to study pavement recycling techniques. Sensors placed in the pavement during construction will allow researchers to monitor how the pavement performs over time, McBride said.
"By confirming the performance of this pavement during its service life, rather than waiting until deterioration begins, VDOT has the ability to evaluate potentially using these techniques on other projects," she said.
Previous studies by transportation agencies have shown pavement recycling techniques can reduce costs as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
VDOT estimates that using recycling techniques on the project's second segment will save $10 million and reuse more than 180,000 tons of existing milled pavement — meaning more than 4,500 tons of new asphalt binder won't be needed, McBride said.
The project spans three localities and 21 miles. When complete, the interstate will have six lanes, with one travel lane and one shoulder lane being added within the existing median.
Crews have been installing sound walls near Richneck Road that can reduce traffic noise by half in residential areas. They're already in place along stretches of I-64 in Hampton and other parts of Newport News, according to VDOT's website.
Placing the walls and drainage structures, as well as clearing trees and brush to make way for the new construction, are all part of the first segment of the three-phase transportation project, said VDOT spokeswoman Paula Miller.
"We're moving right along with this segment of the project, which we expect to be done by December," Miller said.
VDOT workers continued setting up sound barriers and laying their foundations just west of Denbigh Boulevard and west of Industrial Park Drive, according to a website set up by the department to track progress on the project.
Bridges over Industrial Drive, the CSX Railroad, Fort Eustis Boulevard and the Lee Hall Reservoir will also be widened as part of the project, state transportation officials said.
The widening project started in September 2015. The improvements will increase interstate capacity, bring portions of the interstate up to current design standards, provide more evacuation lanes and improve safety by reducing congestion, the transportation agency says on its website.
Future phases include more construction and drainage work, with a wider highway stretch past Williamsburg completed by 2022, state officials said.
Canty can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832.