BRISTOL, Va. — The city of Bristol, Virginia is currently accepting bids for a proposed $5.85 million construction project expected to impact Interstate 81’s Exit 5 for more than a year.
Last week, the city announced a schedule to accept bids for the project, which is fully funded through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program. Sealed bids will be accepted through 2 p.m. June 22, according to a legal advertisement that appeared in the May 25 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier.
Work is expected to begin this summer and continue throughout 2022, according to Wallace McCulloch, the city’s director of public works.
“We would award based on the bid as soon as we open [bids],” McCulloch said. “We anticipate it will start in August. We were hoping it would be finished in 2022, but it could carry over into the spring of ’23. It depends on what they’re able to get done with paving because paving shuts down in the winter.”
Plans call for widening about 1,000 feet of U.S. Highway 11 from Island Road to the Exit 5, I-81 overpass. It would provide two westbound lanes and three eastbound lanes with a landscaped 16-foot median, turning lanes and sidewalk, similar to the segment in front of The Falls, according to the VDOT project file.
One northbound lane of Lee Highway is to drop off at the I-81 southbound on-ramp, and one southbound lane will begin at the I-81 southbound off-ramp.
Plans also include adding a second turn lane at the I-81 northbound off-ramp, giving two lanes turning left onto Lee Highway and adding a second lane on the I-81 southbound off-ramp, to provide two right-turn lanes onto northbound Lee Highway.
Plans also include replacing the traffic signals that control the interchange.
“The 16-foot raised median will limit access points to signalized intersections along Lee Highway and therefore reduce intersection crashes,” according to the document, which also addresses a state priority to make Lee Highway better able to accommodate interstate traffic should I-81 lanes be blocked due to traffic accidents.
Before work begins, the city must acquire right-of-way for widening and easements. The document claims “access will be improved to a new transit route, park-and-ride lot [adjacent to the southbound on-ramp] and bus shelters.” Access to a rail spur will be increased, according to the document.
This is the latest phase of work along Lee Highway in connection with The Falls.
“The improvements to Lee Highway that are proposed in this project are critical for the effective movement of vehicles in this area and for the success of the Falls,” according to the city-supplied information on the VDOT document, which cites original figures regarding The Falls and its founding premise to create 2,500 jobs and generate annual sales of $345 million — figures which have yet to be realized.
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