UPDATE 6/28/12@10:45 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) --A traffic nightmare was drawn out longer than expected on I-64 West Thursday afternoon as construction crews ran into difficulty repairing the South Charleston-Dunbar bridge.
Highway officials say a one-lane bottleneck resulting from the repairs was extended three hours longer than expected due to problems.
"The contractor comes in and determines whether or not they have the right equipment and makes some adjustments...and that's what happened here," said Brent Walker, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.
Walker says construction crews had trouble removing a giant slab of concrete from the old bridge.
"It created a lot of congestion there, and created one lane for a little bit longer than we anticipated," he said.
The bottleneck frustrated many drivers throughout the day who were stopped in the sweltering heat.
"The traffic is crazy...I could do without that," said driver Chris Sharpe.
Joe Tate was on his way to Charleston from Ripley when he got stuck in the mess. He said he noticed people leaving their cars and sitting on guard rails to escape their hot cars.
"It's the worst I've seen in a long time," he said. "It was just like coming up on a wreck you didn't know was there."
Tate was stuck without air conditioning in his vehicle and says he was in good company.
"If people would have passed out, how could they get an ambulance in there?" he said.
The road reopened to two lanes about 3:30 p.m. The bridge construction project will continue throughout the weekend, which you may want to consider while making holiday travel plans.
UPDATE 6/28/12 @ 8:30 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Traffic backed up for miles Thursday on I-64 West because of bridge construction, but now traffic is moving smoothly.
The Division of Highways construction crews had to shut traffic down to one lane to do some work on the South Charleston-Dunbar bridge.
Repairs were only expected to take a couple of hours, but it ended up taking 8 hours.
Highway officials said crews had trouble lifting a giant slab of concrete from the old bridge.
Both lanes are now open but the construction project is not over.
Crews will continue to work through the weekend.
UPDATE 6/28/12 @ 2:30 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Traffic is backed up for miles on I-64 West because of construction on the South Charleston-Dunbar bridge.
Construction crews have only one westbound lane of traffic open between the MacCorkle Avenue and Dunbar exits.
The Division of Highways says construction crews had to shut traffic down to one lane to do some work which was only expected to take a couple of hours, but it ended up taking 8 hours.
The DOH says two lanes are expected to be open about 3:00 p.m.
The DOH is telling drivers to expect delays and find a different route around the construction if possible.
Right now, traffic on I-64 West is backed up from the MacCorkle Avenue exit in South Charleston to all the way past the I-64/I-77 split in downtown Charleston.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.
“It's a pain, the traffic, especially in the evening time,” Herbie Chancellor, who commutes over the bridge every day, said.
“Twenty years of traveling back and forth has been a big headache because of the traffic and the time,” Sharon Daily, an I-64 commuter, said.
The bridge used to consist of four lanes -- two in each direction.
Soon that will double, and after years of a construction, all the traffic tie-ups should clear up.
“They're getting ready to see some relief,” Brent Walker, a West Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson said.
All lanes are expected to be open by July 4, but the transition hasn't been easy.
The latest issue was Monday evening, when a change in pattern caused bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“There's been some congestion over the last couple of days since we've switched lanes, but there are two lanes open that are continuous,” Walker said. “Some people won't go to the far right because they think that will just end.”
The Department of Transportation is urging drivers to watch the signs and use all open lanes.
“It'll be nice. It'll be a whole lot easier coming to work, on the way to work and then leaving work, going home,” Chancellor said. “In the evening time, it could probably cut 30 to 40 minutes off.”
“I'm looking forward to it because it's gonna make a difference in travel time, as well,” Daily said.
During the next few weeks, construction crews will finish up paving and some final touches.
The DOT says there will be a little more work to do after July 4, but it will be done at night when there's not much traffic.
"It'll be a big improvement," Charles Cox of South Charleston said.
Cox has been a barber in town for 54 years. He's always up for change and thinks the new bridge on I-64 will be a good one -- when it's finished.
"You never know which line to get into," Cox said. "Especially when you're driving next to a tractor-trailer and the trailer's weaving over in both directions, and you don't know which line to get in. It's very very scary."
The mixture of old and new lines have many drivers stepping on the brakes; just figuring out where they need to be.
"I've seen where cars have bumped the rear end of the car in front of them due to this," Minnie Leonard said.
Leonard's chaotic commute to her restaurant in South Charleston each day should pick up the pace by the end of the week. That's when transportation officials say all lanes will be open, the road paved and the lanes clearly marked.
"Traffic should be flowing very smoothly eastbound. Now heading west, it could be a different story," Brent Walker with the Department of Transportation said.
Work on the westbound side of the bridge, or the "old bridge," will begin as soon as the eastbound "new bridge" is complete. That’s expected to be this Friday.
The project is set to wrap up completely by the end of 2011.
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