Drivers who daily squeeze into a single lane driving eastbound on Fort Eustis Boulevard west of Interstate 64 will shortly have more driving room.
The new bridge over the CSX tracks should be completed by August, said Newport News special projects engineer Thomas Cheney.
"They paved the bridge deck a couple of weeks ago," Cheney said.
The bridge is one of a slew of roads projects underway, ranging from new construction to new paving in Peninsula communities this summer. The work has meant lane closures, delays and ubiquitous orange traffic cones.
The $5.1 million bridge project to replace the first of two 54-year-old spans crossing the tracks began in April 2013 and was supposed to be completed by November 2013, but a series of delays pushed the project back, extending the delays and backups for motorists, especially during morning and afternoon commute hours. First the contractor, Bryant Contracting Inc. of Williamsburg, found underground fiber-optic cables where crews planned to plant one of the bridge support piers.
Then a flaw was found in the design of the bridge, requiring modifications, reinforcements and approval from Virginia Department of Transportation.
But Cheney said the project is on track for completion. Then traffic will switch to the new bridge and the contractor, Bryant Construction, of Williamsburg, will demolish the remaining bridge and build a new one. That process is expected to take less time.
"Hopefully we've worked through all the issues," Cheney said. "We hope to have the whole thing done in the spring."
Newport News and Hampton are repaving several major roads, spending more than $5 million on the projects.
Kim Dugan, Newport News assistant chief of civil design, said the city spent about $3.5 million on three milling and paving contracts. Since May, Branscome Inc. and Basic Construction Co. have repaved sections of Warwick, Mercury and J. Clyde Morris boulevards, Huntington Avenue and several smaller streets.
City Engineering Department Director Everett Skipper said Newport News increased its repaving work this year.
"We're doing about 20 to 40 percent more," compared to prior years, he said. "The state freed some money and we were able to get the schedule to work."
Dugan said the work is covered by VDOT maintenance funds. The new paving not only erases potholes and other signs of wear, construction officials said it should hold up better during storms and winter weather.
Gaskins said the $1.16 million contract with Branscome Inc. will take about two months, with crews milling and repaving the parkway from its end to Big Bethel Road.
"The project is scheduled to start on the 12th, with work being done at night for the beginning of the project," Gaskins said. "Work could shift to days once they get past the interstate, depending upon the amount of traffic on the road."
Hampton is finishing the first phase of its North King Street reconstruction project, he added. The $3 million project widens the street from Old Fox Hill Road to Little Back River Road to four lanes and includes a raised median, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and storm-drain improvements. Bike paths and better lighting are part of the work as well. The city now is turning to the next phase, which would cost about $4 million and extend from Little Back River Road to the Langley Air Force Base gate.
Hampton also has a number of intersection improvements in the works, according to its engineering projects list.
Drivers who have been dodging construction workers and orange cones on Jefferson Avenue between 25th and 36th streets in Newport News now have clear lanes, said Dugan. The city has completed its massive street renovation project, which included moving utilities underground, improving storm drains and installing new street lamps and sidewalks, is complete. The city is in the design phase for the next segment of the project, renovating Jefferson from 12th to 25th streets.
In York County, VDOT is continuing the first phase of its $25.2 million project to widen Route 17, the George Washington Memorial Highway to six lanes.
"Crews have been paving, striping and installing barriers in the existing median in preparation for the southbound traffic shift" expected later this month, said VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Gwaltney. Once that is completed, crews will begin reconstruction on the southbound lanes as well as construction of a new section of bridge.
Route 17 averages 56,000 vehicles daily, and VDOT officials said when completed in 2016 the work, widening the road from Hampton Highway to Wolf Trap Road, will increase the road's capacity and reduce travel times.
In Newport News, work progresses on another route slated to improve travel times and decrease congestion, the extension of Middle Ground Boulevard to Warwick Boulevard. Dugan said that project is planned for completion by year's end.
Gwaltney said construction crews have finished the concrete work on the Middle Ground bridge over the railroad tracks and is now working on turn lanes and grading. Gwaltney said the project is on track to finish in December.
Grimes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4758.