FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Three years of construction is coming to a three mile stretch of I-79. The West Virginia Division of Highways approved a bid on a project from exit 132 to exit 135. The private construction company was Swank Construction from New Kensington, Pa. The project will widen the highway to three lanes in each direction, add median barriers and reconstruct four bridges.
The bridge of I-79 that goes over Route 250 will be widened on the southbound side. The widening of the bridge will lengthen the on-ramp, so drivers have more time to merge onto I-79. The bridge that crosses the Tygart River and the Millersville Road bridge will both be completely reconstructed and widened. Then, the overpass at the Kingmont exit will be widened to flow with the three lanes of traffic on the road.
“All of the bridges are getting some age on them now,” Jason Nelson, WVDOH District 4 Construction Engineer, said. “They’re just not feasible to add on to them at this point. So, they’re being replaced in full, so we have a widened roadway and new bridges that we don’t have to hopefully not worry about for 50, 60 years.”
As a construction engineer, Nelson oversees work of private contractors who accept projects through the DOH. For the I-79 Fairmont project, construction engineers will oversee the payments to the contractor and the inspections of the work the contractor will do.
This specific project finished the letting process and was accepted on April 13. When a project is in the letting process, private contractors can ask questions on an advertised project and make amendments to the project contract. After the let date, the private contractors submit bids on the project and the WVDOH evaluates the bids, and decides who will get the contract. Most of the time it goes to whichever contractor submitted the lowest or least costly bid to do the project.
The construction will start on the outer sides of both the north and southbound lanes to widen the shoulders of the road. Then workers will move into the middle of the highway to build the median barriers.
“Drivers will see some lane shifts and then have to drive in different areas that they haven’t been used to on the roadway,” Nelson said. “Those shifts aren’t going to happen like every night or every day or anything like that. They’re going to be working these phases between the bridges.”
I-79 won’t have less than two lanes open during the daytime and peak traffic hours, but drivers still need to be patient and safe.
“One thing I do ask is that everyone pays attention when they’re driving through,” Nelson said. “Don’t look down at your phone. Those guys out there working, they work for the Division of Highways, they work for the contractor, they have families to go home to at night.”
The project will start sometime in May, 2021 and it will be finished by September, 2024.