Gainesville interchange underway
The Virginia Department of Transportation broke ground Thursday on a new interchange designed to ease a chronic bottleneck at Route 29 near Interstate 66.
Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia's secretary of transportation, like his predecessor, Pierce R. Homer, compare the reconstruction of the highways in Gainesville to the massive Springfield Interchange project. Both were expensive, complex designs to untangle knots of congestion. One of the main differences is that the Gainesville work is being done in stages, largely because of the limits on state transportation spending.
In fact, one phase is just wrapping up as work on the new interchange gets underway. By July 10, VDOT says, it will open the final stretch of pavement completing the widening of I-66 to Gainesville. This segment involves two eastbound lanes at Route 29.
Route 29 improvements
The new interchange will recreate the area two traffic lights south of I-66 on Route 29 and, the planners hope, bring relief to thousands of drivers who use this area as shoppers, commuters and long-distance travelers.
The traffic lights and grade-level Norfolk Southern tracks are the main elements in the current bottleneck. A dozen freights a day roll across Route 29.
The key to the reconstruction will be two new overpasses. One will carry Route 29 over the tracks. The other will carry Linton Hall and Gallerher roads over the tracks and Route 29. Meanwhile, Route 29 will be widened to six lanes in this area. Driveway entrances and the two traffic lights between I-66 and Virginia Oaks Drive will be eliminated. This is scheduled to be done in December 2014.
What's ahead for drivers
The construction phase of this $267 million project is complex: VDOT first had to acquire the land around the road junctions, demolish 38 buildings and relocate utilities. That's been going on for three years.
Now, construction will begin on two detour roads, one on Route 29 and the other on Linton Hall Road. These will take till the middle of 2012 to complete. But VDOT says the traffic impacts are likely to be small. During the entire construction project, the number of lanes available on all the routes will stay the same.
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