First phase of construction project on Interstate 81 begins

PULASKI CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A large construction project that will impact drivers on interstate 81 is taking a big step forward this week. The Virginia Department of Transportation says it is demolishing a bridge that runs over the interstate near Radford.

The first phase of work is being completed now. The construction will happen between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. through June. The plan is to build a new bridge, in pieces, to replace this one on Route 232.

The bridge running over I-81 needs to be replaced because VDOT is replacing the interstate bridges that run over the New River. When that's done, the 232 Bridge wouldn't line up with the newly realigned 81 bridges.

But to keep traffic moving through the area, the current bridge will come down and the new one built in pieces.

"They will actually be cutting up pieces of the bridge and removing them from where it crosses the interstate," VDOT Spokesperson Jen Ward said.

But just below these bridges, is a camping area. Will that be a problem?

"We would hope it would not. They may hear some noise overnight, but we're going to try as much as we can to get this done as quick as we can without disturbing our drivers on the interstate as well as people in the area," Ward said.

Those living there full time say they're not concerned, because nothing can change it. But the Mallmanns are just passing through and planned to stay for a couple days.

"Not real thrilled about that, we did not even know about that part, we thought it would quiet down a bit at night. If it's bad enough, we'll leave tomorrow," Gwen Mallmann of northern Virginia said.

But it's not just residents. People driving on 232 or 81 could have some problems overnight through June.

"They'll see a lot of alternating lane closures in that area, and then at the end as we start to do some beam removal, we will actually be doing some slow rolls on the interstate where we have to stop traffic for a short period of time," Ward said.

Those periods are expected to be only 15 to 20 minutes of blocked traffic in both directions. VDOT says it's important drivers keep an eye out for signs announcing those changes days in advance.

Next up, is building the new bridge alongside another, which shouldn't impact traffic at all.

The entire project is expected to be done December of 2020.