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Work to begin on six-lane portion of I-64

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The dream of a safer, six-lane freeway will soon come to fruition for a portion of Interstate 64 in Huntington.

The state Division of Highways announced those plans Thursday as part of an $18 million project slated to begin next week.

It will replace east and westbound bridges crossing Cedar Crest Drive with wider structures, allowing construction crews to immediately link them with three neighboring overpasses that were expanded years ago.

The end result will be an estimated four-mile section of freeway with three lanes in each direction separated by a concrete barrier.

State Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, has been among legislators who have pushed for a wider, safer interstate for years.

"That's excellent news that day has come at least for one segment of road," he said. "This doesn't mean the job is done. We've made another step in the overall goal, which is three lanes each way from the state line (to Charleston)."

Preparatory work started this week with significant construction slated to begin March 11. Completion is set for Sept. 28, 2014.

The project will require a slower speed limit of 50 miles per hour, but state officials do not anticipate major congestion. That's because the contractor is required to maintain two lanes of traffic at all times between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The announcement represents a significant step forward in a push that first gained traction in the mid 2000s when cross-median vehicle accidents happened with great frequency and caused serious injury and death.

Cable barriers stood as the first solution. Their installation was followed by projects that widened three overpasses between the 29th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard exits, work that DOH District Manager Scott Eplin said paved the way for Thursday's announcement.

"Almost a mile of it is already completed," he said referencing the earlier projects. "This is just sort of filling in the missing link."

In a related project, the state will pay $5.4 million to replace two bridges at the base of the Hal Greer interchange. They are located at the eastbound off ramp and westbound on ramp, Eplin said.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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