Why Do Road Projects Take So Long?
Among the most frequently asked questions submitted by simmering drivers is, "Why can't they finish this project faster?" These are among the many variations: Why aren't there more people working? Why can't they close the road and just get it over with? Why can't they work day and night, seven days a week?
And is there a driver among us who -- either stuck in congestion on a hot day or rattling over a rough road -- hasn't wanted to take charge of a construction project?
This summer, the Maryland State Highway Administration began a year-long resurfacing project on the western side of the Beltway, and that provoked this question and comment during my weekly online discussion Monday.
Tysons Corner, Va.: I was reading about the Maryland SHA's project to resurface the Beltway between I-270 and the American Legion Bridge. I definitely agree that the stretch of road could use a new coat of asphalt, but the story stated that this project was going to take a year to complete. Is that correct?
If it is, since when does it take one full year to mill and repave a 4-mile stretch of road, which will include nightly lane closures and other delays? Shouldn't this work take about one month?
David Buck, a spokesman for the SHA, had some answers. He noted that this project includes 40 lane miles of paving, replacing drainage inlets and jersey barrier and resurfacing eight ramps.
Big job: He explained the "40 lane miles" this way: There are four lanes and one full shoulder on each side of I-495. The project will resurface four miles of the Interstate in both directions. That is 20 lane miles of milling and resurfacing on both sides of I-495 for a total of approximately 40 lane miles.
All of it will be done without closing a vital link for commuters and long-distance travelers. That means the crews must safely work around 225,000 vehicles a day. The work hours are limited to avoid lane closures during peak travel times.
Safety: "Beltway resurfacing and improvements are very dangerous and they tend to take a fair amount of time," Buck said. "We all want our workers to get home safely every night and to keep the delays to the traveling public to an absolute minimum."
Other factors: Thunderstorms, such as those we may see later today, can force a temporary halt to work. Over the winter, the asphalt plants shut down during the months when it's too cold to pave.
For those reasons, Buck said, this job is likely to last till late next spring or early summer.
By the way, he noted, this project is possible now because of the federal stimulus money. The western part of the Beltway probably would not have been resurfaced for two or three more years without the federal payment.
August 5, 2009; 9:08 AM ET
Categories: highways | Tags: Beltway, Dr. Gridlock, FAQ, Maryland State Highway Administration, paving
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