CHARLESTON, WV – (WWNR) Contractors set off the first of many explosive blasts Tuesday, July 20, 2021 to get ready for major upgrades to the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge on Interstate 64.
West Virginia Division of Highways plans to build a new bridge beside the existing Nitro-St. Albans Bridge to carry westbound traffic, then build a new bridge on the site of the existing structure using a portion of the existing bridge piers to carry eastbound traffic. The bridge upgrade is part of a $244 million project under Gov. Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity construction program to widen Interstate 64 to six lanes from Nitro to the US 35 interchange at Scott Depot.
Other Roads to Prosperity projects will upgrade Interstate 64 to six lanes all the way from Charleston to Huntington.
Jason Hamilton, District 1 Area Engineer for Construction, said Tuesday’s blast was to loosen up rock and dirt for a new road contour on the St. Albans exit ramp that ties in with WV 817. The blast went off without a hitch at 12:29 p.m.
Contractors closed St. Albans and Nitro interstate ramps for a few minutes before and after the blast for safety. West Virginia State Police, Putnam County sheriff’s deputies and Nitro city police also instituted rolling roadblocks on the interstate.
In a rolling roadblock, law enforcement drives in front of traffic and slows the traffic stream down until safely past the construction work. Hamilton said the rolling roadblocks began at Cross Lanes for westbound traffic and at Scott Depot for traffic heading east. Rolling roadblocks kept contractors from having to close the interstate completely during the blast.
“Traffic was affected very little,” Hamilton said.
Between the first ramp closures and the time the ramps reopened and rolling roadblocks stopped after the blast was about 12 minutes, Hamilton said.
Periodic blasting is expected to continue through the end of August. Contractors have set up a window for blasting between noon and 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
“This will be the same setup from here on out,” Hamilton said.
But because contractors have to drill and prepare the site before each blast, explosions may not be scheduled every day. Hamilton expects blasting will probably take place two or three days a week.