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Bizzack Construction Expands Virginia Portion of the Appalachian Highway

by: Larry Bernstein
As a result of the massive cuts on sections of the Corridor Q roadway in Virginia, over 13 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase A and 21 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase B.
As a result of the massive cuts on sections of the Corridor Q roadway in Virginia, over 13 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase A and 21 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase B.
Hauling cut material from Cuts #5, 6, and 7 to Fill #3 along the construction haul road on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Hauling cut material from Cuts #5, 6, and 7 to Fill #3 along the construction haul road on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Drilling for more blasting in Cut #5, while material is loaded and hauled to Fill #3 on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Drilling for more blasting in Cut #5, while material is loaded and hauled to Fill #3 on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Rock crushing operation in Cut #2 where onsite limestone and sandstone rock are used for the rough grade leveling on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Rock crushing operation in Cut #2 where onsite limestone and sandstone rock are used for the rough grade leveling on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Drilling, blasting, and excavating rock in Cut #7 during Poplar Creek Phase A.
Drilling, blasting, and excavating rock in Cut #7 during Poplar Creek Phase A.
Placement of fill material in Fill #3 for Poplar Creek Phase A. Rocks no larger than 48 inches are permitted and the fill lifts are a maximum of 4 feet.
Placement of fill material in Fill #3 for Poplar Creek Phase A. Rocks no larger than 48 inches are permitted and the fill lifts are a maximum of 4 feet.
Base asphalt paving on the main line for Route 460/121 Intersection/Hawks Nest final grade.
Base asphalt paving on the main line for Route 460/121 Intersection/Hawks Nest final grade.
Guard rail installation on Stable Drive, a county road adjacent to Route 460/121.
Guard rail installation on Stable Drive, a county road adjacent to Route 460/121.
Triple box culvert installation, about one third of the way through the total length of the Route 460/121 Intersection.
Triple box culvert installation, about one third of the way through the total length of the Route 460/121 Intersection.
Fill #3 is nearly complete, including the Route 604 intersection, on Poplar Creek Phase A.
Fill #3 is nearly complete, including the Route 604 intersection, on Poplar Creek Phase A.
The Corridor Q highway, currently designated as U.S. Route 460, runs through Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia and is part of the National Highway System. It’s also part of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), which is the centerpiece of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s effort to foster economic and social development in the multi-state Appalachian region.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is in the middle of a long-term multi-phase project on their state’s portion of Corridor Q. The project is focused on approximately 13 miles of Corridor Q in Virginia that are unopened to traffic. Eight miles are set to open to traffic late 2023 with the remainder still under construction.

Current Work
The project team is currently focused on the final two phases of the project known as Poplar Creek Phase A and Phase B.

Poplar Creek Phase A is focused on a 2.9-mile section of the project. Construction began on this phase of the project in summer 2019 and is expected be complete in the late 2025. The design-build project has a budget of $167 million and Bizzack Construction out of Lexington, Kentucky is serving as the contractor.

Poplar Creek Phase B will see the construction of 1.6 miles of the four-lane highway. Construction began in early 2023 and it is expected to open to traffic in 2027. Bizzack Construction is also leading this design-build project. This phase has a budget of $172 million.

Moving the Earth
Because of the terrain in the area, various sections of the Corridor Q roadway require box cuts approximately 400 feet high and hollow fills that are 350 feet deep. As a result of the massive cuts, over 13 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase A and 21 million cubic yards will be moved for Poplar Creek Phase B.

“Moving this amount of material required the team to take a deep look into how to maintain and protect the environment,” says Marty Halloway, a Mega Projects Program Engineer with VDOT. “Our team partnered and developed an environmental charter which resulted in positive environmental reviews by VDOT staff and the Department of Environmental Quality.”

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Project leadership has ensured the team is knowledgeable about procedures and requirements related to environmental control. Without proper oversight, there could be sediment loss from the project site that would impact local waterways.

During Poplar Creek Phase A, the team installed a box culvert beneath a portion of Route 460/121. The culvert is one of the deepest (310-feet maximum cover at its midsection) for a precast box culvert in the nation. The Virginia Transportation Research Council placed sensors in some of the precast box sections to monitor the stresses during the construction fill and during long term operation.

“We did it precast rather than cast-in-place because of the potential climate issues that occur in a valley, as well as to increase production, which reduced time,” Halloway says.

To install the multi-piece, 2,200 linear feet box the team has to raise power lines for which there was no redundant feed. This required significant communication and coordination with local utilities.

As part of Poplar Creek B, the team is installing the second tallest bridge in Virginia. The 1,000 feet long, 215 feet tall bridge will span the Levisa Fork River and a railroad.

A High Functioning Team
The public-private partnership with VDOT is a programmatic comprehensive agreement where each construction segment is negotiated separately under a design-build contract.

Along with Bizzack Construction, other essential team members include:

  • AECOM (VDOT Independent Assurance Consultant)
  • Bush & Burchett, Inc. (Bridge Subcontractor)
  • 3B Consulting (Design)
  • Kelly Consulting (Design)
  • Jansen Spaans Engineering Inc. (Bridge Design Subconsultant)
  • JMT (Design)

Massive projects like Corridor Q are marathons and not sprints. The team has been working on this project together for years, making it even more important they work well together.

“Having clear expectations of employees and how we communicate with another is critical,” Halloway says. “We’re determined to maintain a culture of problem solving and avoid an antagonistic atmosphere.”

This is also important because there have been multiple hurdles the team has had to overcome. A positive work atmosphere has been a key to moving the project forward.

Most of the team’s design decision makers for the complex project are outside of the area, so a lot of the communication between the team takes place virtually. The team uses Bluebeam, among other programs, to see the designers’ comments in real-time and foster communication.

Halloway had great praise for Bizzack. “I can’t emphasize enough their great work on the project.”

Both Poplar Creek phases are on schedule. Halloway is confident that the team will complete them on time. “We’re ahead of schedule now and we completed the earlier phases ahead of schedule as well. Bizzack completes significant volumes of work every day.”

Corridor Q is being financed by the federal government and state government with the standard 80/20 funding. The state funding is being drawn from various funding sources, including ARC funding, bond sales, and other tax revenues.

The project is on budget. In fact, the team has been able to secure more funding and is adding to the scope. Sections of the highway will vary in width with between two lanes, two lanes and a separate truck climbing lane, and four lanes. The extra funding has led to a greater part of the highway being four lanes.

When the Corridor Q project is complete, it will provide safe, modern, and efficient highway access to people in the area. It will also open the area to more tourism and other economic opportunities as it provides important links to a broader network of highways that promotes trade and job growth within the multi-state Appalachian region and the nation as a whole.

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