News Briefs

VDOT Builds Bridges with Middle Schoolers

Robbie Williams with studentsJan. 23, 2017: Using only toothpicks and glue, eighth-grade students at Central Academy Middle School in Botetourt County were recently assigned to create a model replacement bridge on Route 220 over the James River for a class project.

Six groups presented their work to Salem District Construction Engineer Robbie Williams (center at right). Their proposal had to stay within budget, be environmentally friendly and have strong safety features. 

Their bridges needed to be able to withstand heavy weight during a simulation test that was conducted on each model. 

Each group also had to consider environmental work as part of their budget because the bridge crossed a tributary of the James River.

“The students really picked up on more than just the bridge concerns but the environmental aspects and roadway maintenance challenges as well,” Williams said. “These are all things that we have to deal with during a real-world bridge project.”

Read a longer version of this story published recently by The Roanoke Times.

Road Construction Ahead Moves to New Format

road construction ahead mapJan. 10, 2017: Road Construction Ahead has moved to a new format using Google Maps, allowing better compatibility with various browser types.

Available on the VDOT website, Road Construction Ahead maps major highway construction projects in all districts and provides brief details about each, including traffic impacts. 

The current map reflects those that are in progress from January to April. Communications compiles the projects and completes the design work on the map three times annually.

“The new format will allow more users, including those on Apple iOS devices, to view upcoming projects that may affect their travel,” Communications Director Tamara Rollison said.

Road Construction Ahead can be found under “Travel Center” on


MLK Expressway Extension Opens Early

MLK ExtensionJan. 5, 2017: The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project reached another milestone when the Martin Luther King (MLK) Extension opened a month ahead of schedule. 

The 1.2-mile extension of Route 164/U.S. 58 joins Interstate 264, creating a seamless connection between the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in Portsmouth.

The MLK Extension is part of a $2.1 billion infrastructure project that also built a new Midtown Tunnel and involves rehabilitating the existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels and operating and maintaining the tunnels for another 53 years.

The freeway extension was constructed almost completely by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) and Small, Women and Minority Owned (SWaM) businesses. 

That allowed the ERT Project to reach one of the highest DBE and SWaM goals on a major transportation project in Virginia.

The public’s response to the new connection has been positive. One motorist tweeted, “Saved 10 minutes off our commute! And no stop & go, so gas savings too!”


Lexington Residency Unveils New Weapon for Winter

Lexington salt storageJan. 4, 2016: ​No matter what Mother Nature brings in 2017 – and many winters to come – the VDOT Staunton District Lexington Residency will be ready.

A massive new salt-storage facility next to the residency offices was completed in November and promptly filled with 5,000 tons of salt and 1,000 tons of abrasives.

 At 168 feet by 82 feet, the barnlike building is large enough for tractor-trailers to drive inside and back right up to the piles of material.

 It’s also tall enough for them to fully raise their truck beds for quick delivery.

The new building is close to the junction of Interstates 64 and 81, and centrally located for distributing vital supplies to Rockbridge, Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties, said Assistant Residency Administrator Mike Henry. 

“This will serve as a staging area for local storm events and provide additional re-supply capability for other salt storage facilities throughout the residency and Staunton District.”


VDOT Staff Take Questions from Aspiring Engineers

Dec. 29, 2016: ​Earlier this month, the VDOT Central Office Talent Programs team visited ninth-graders at Highland Springs High School in Henrico County to talk about engineering careers.

This networking event gave 44 students an opportunity to talk about various fields of engineering one-on-one with our staff members, who answered questions about why they selected their college major, projects they have worked on and a typical day in their position.

"I had a really good time,” said Transportation Engineer Jonathan Robbins. “The kids were all eager and asked some really thorough questions. I was impressed by the turnout and how engaged the students were!"

"It was exciting to have discussions with the next generation of engineers relative to their aspirations and future careers,” said Construction Project Controls Program Manager Omar Ahmed.

 “It was quite a fulfilling experience."


Page last modified: Jan. 23, 2017