Delayed this week by fog and rain, work on Interstate 64 to remove unstable soil from an Afton Mountain slope will trigger another week of traffic delays, state transportation officials said Wednesday.
The emergency project at milepost 100.3 began after a Virginia Department of Transportation worker noticed that soil appeared to have slipped along the mountainside, officials said. VDOT earlier expected the work to be complete today but officials said Wednesday the projected finish date now is May 9.
“ We realize we are causing an inconvenience for people, but we are trying to get this done as quickly as we can, while also making sure we keep motorists safe and equipment operators safe, too,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper district, which is handling the work.
Work stopped Monday and Tuesday because of rain and fog and again Wednesday because of lingering moisture, officials said.
Crews are using large bulldozers and excavators to knock loose soil to the bottom of the slope alongside I-64’s west lanes. The soil then is hauled to a disposal site several miles east of the work area, officials said. Travel is halted in the work area several times a day, backing up traffic for miles. U.S. 250 is the alternate route.
“We have heard a lot of customers saying they were going to come over but couldn't get past Crozet and gave up,” said Jeff Grosfeld of Crozet, the owner of Ann Arden and Under The Roof in Waynesboro. “We feel like it has impacted us a little negatively.”
The area where crews are working is roughly the size of a football field and stretches several hundred yards up a roughly 30-degree slope, Hatter said. Had the problem not been discovered, soil and massive rocks could have tumbled onto the interstate, officials said. Once the soil is removed and engineers have inspected the work, plant seed will be added among other erosion control measures to help stabilize the mountainside, officials said.
Because of safety concerns, the work is taking place from 7 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, rather than at night, and stopping on Fridays and weekends because of traffic volume, Hatter said.
“It was determined that we needed to remove the soil in a controlled way,” Hatter said. “That’s the reason why we are restricting traffic, so that there are no vehicles in the vicinity of the work while the equipment is pushing soil down the slope.”
The instability of the soil likely is the product of a combination of factors over time rather than related to conditions related to recent winter and spring weather, he said.
State police said there has been no increase in crashes on either U.S. 250 or I-64.
VDOT advises drivers to check 511.virginia.org or call 511 for real-time information about traffic conditions and delays.