End in Sight for Blasting Project - WSET.com - ABC13

End in Sight for Blasting Project

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Reporter: David Tate

Roanoke Co., VA - You've been frustrated with all the blasting work to widen I-81 in Montgomery County, you'll be happy to hear the end is in sight.

VDOT officials say the contractor handling that work expects to be finished by Memorial Day.

About 60,000 people drive that stretch of 81 every day, and many are feeling the relief.

Since last May, the contractor working to complete the region's largest traffic project has been slowing down traffic along I-81 in order to get their work done.

Just about every workday beginning around 10:15 a.m., crews have had to force travelers off the interstate and onto 460 for a 15 mile detour.

One would think Connie Browning would love all the traffic flowing by her business as owner of Dixie Caverns. But that isn't the case.

"The traffic has tied them up so badly that they are behind schedule. They don't want to stop at the retail places. They don't want to stop at the tourist places either. They stop here to go to the bathroom, and then they are gone," said Browning.

The original plan to deal with the construction didn't include the detour. Rolling roadblocks is how things started, which were supposed to keep the wait to roughly 30 minutes, but the mountains didn't cooperate and the detour was added.

"There were a lot of large rocks that were dislodged as part of blasting that needed to be cleared away before the road could reopen to traffic, and it was taking longer than anticipated," said Jason Bond, a VDOT spokesperson.

To highlight the problem, on Monday, a huge boulder fell onto the interstate and by late afternoon, the extended detour had traffic backed up more than eight miles.

A seemingly daily thing for Browning and all the others that live in the area, making the news that it'll be over soon in time for the tourist season, which is good news indeed.

"That is wonderful. Wonderful news," said Browning.

VDOT officials also say there will be no more blasting through the rest of the week as crews work to clear debris that has already been made.

However, you can still expect delays as VDOT plans on using rolling road blocks to control traffic as crews clean that debris away.

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