VDOT names panel for solutions to defective I-64 on Peninsula

VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet said Wednesday that he had appointed a special panel of experts to come up with a solution within 6-8 weeks for making repairs to a defective 2.5 mile section of the new portion of I-64 in Hampton.

The action followed a story Monday by the Virginia News Source that the worst case scenario would require ripping up the surface and repaving it to make it safe for traffic. Reports are that portions of the road are so flat that water accumulating during rains would make the interstate unsafe for travel.

Schucet said the committee's purpose is to determine extent of the problem. The panel is headed up by NOVA VDOT district engineer John  DePasquale.  In addition to Pasquale, there will also be a representative from the Branch Group, owners of E. V. Williams, the prime contractor,  and representatives from the Federal Highway Administration.  Branch Group, based in Roanoke, is the 20th largest privately owned company in Virginia. 

Schucet said he met with Branch CEO Jim Harrison and they agreed to find a solution.

Removing all the pavement is the least desirable option and before that alternative is selected, VDOT is going to work with the contractor to explore other alternatives which might include overlaying or digging out selected portions of the unsafe roadway.

VDOT and Branch are going to jointly develop a baseline survey of the roadway within two (2) weeks to determine the full extend of the problem.  Whatever is done will have to meet all  of VDOT requirements.  

Shucet said he first learned of the problem 'sometime in June.'    On his way to Richmond during a rain, Shucet said he pulled off the road to 'personally observe the problem' first hand.  "Public safety," he said, "is first and foremost." 

While not assessing blame, Shucet, VDOT's first professional, no-nonsense manager, said, "The accountability for the problem will be dealt with."  He added he will personally participate in 'the lessons learned."

Questioned by reporters, he would not discuss at this point, who is at fault , who will pay, what the cost will be, but he did say the problem could delay the opening of the highway an 10-12 additional months.

The project, already almost 33% over budget, was found to have sections that failed to meet contract specifications.  The contractor, was informed of the problem, before the paving was finished, but ignored the warning and completed the job.

John H. Neal Jr., VDOT's Hampton Roads District Construction Engineer, told VNS last week: "At this point, VDOT does not know:   (1).  The severity of the problem; (2). how much pavement is involved; (3) what'll be required to repair the roadway; (4) who's responsible; (5) what the repair cost will be; or (6) who will pay for repairs."

Neal said he would have answers to those questions in 2 weeks

Because of the roadway problems and faulty beams that halted construction of the Magruder Blvd. bridge last September, the opening date for the badly needed traffic lanes is currently undetermined, but Shucet wants them open ASAP.

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