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Part of Wilroy Road to close for bridge project

A portion of Wilroy Road will close later this month as part of an expected four-month project to remove a trio of failing culverts and build a new bridge.

The road, also known as Route 642, will close in both directions south of U.S. Route 58 from River Creek Drive to Lassiter Lane beginning July 20. Drivers will have a detour in place through mid-to-late November. Allan Myers VA Inc., with a bid of $2.3 million, will perform the work on the project. The company also built the Jones Swamp bridge on Mineral Springs Road last year.

The detour may be up to seven miles, and city officials said drivers should expect delays and longer travel times. During a June 3 briefing to City Council, Public Works Director L.J. Hansen said that the project has numerous challenges, including many utility conflicts.

Those utility conflicts include a Hampton Roads Sanitation District force main — or pressurized sewer pipe that carries wastewater where gravity sewage flow cannot happen — going through there, a Portsmouth water line, numerous gas lines, Dominion Energy lines and telecommunications lines in there.

“There really are no good detours,” Hansen said. “We’ve been looking at this for months and months and months trying to find the best way to detour.”

Hansen noted that the original crossing was made up of three steel culverts, or pipes, in the ground and covered up with dirt. Steel in a saltwater condition doesn’t last long, he said, causing the steel culverts to corrode and subsequently fail.

Due to the road’s location, the Virginia Department of Transportation chose to put pilings in the ground — doing so before the devolution agreement in fiscal year 2006 giving the city control of its secondary roads — and then poured a concrete slab over it.

“Imagine a table with a bunch of really bad material underneath the table,” Hansen said. “The table is safe. That’s what we’re driving on. However, the stuff off to the side, the shoulders, that’s what we don’t have enough material and we cannot seem to keep it there.”

Hansen said Tuesday he expects the project to be completed around Thanksgiving.

“It’s an extensive project, it’s an aggressive schedule, but we think we can get it done,” Hansen said.

Hansen said there is no danger to the road surface. It’s the shoulders that the city is not able to maintain, which is why it has barricades set up there. He said people in the area would still be able to get to and from their homes.

“This is going to be a headache,” Hansen told council. “It’s going to be a headache for us, it’s going to be a headache for the commuters in the city. We know it’s a headache. We would do anything we can to avoid it, but there isn’t anything we can do. We have to fix it. It’s become an unsafe condition. It’s up to us to make a difficult decision, and we’re going to work through whatever we can do to minimize the amount of time we have to close the road.”

Hansen said Public Works has communicated with Suffolk Public Schools and with the city’s first responders on the project’s impacts upon each.

Another project along a stretch of Holland Road will mean a temporary closure of a lane of traffic to allow Dominion Energy to remove overhead utility lines, which have been relocated in anticipation of the Holland Road construction project.

Contractors working for Dominion Energy will close the eastbound right lane of Holland Road — U.S. Route 58 — at around 9 a.m. July 7, and it will stay closed until 6 p.m.

Hansen said Dominion Energy’s work to relocate utility lines has been ongoing for several months.

“They’re basically moving the lines from the old set of power lines to the new set,” Hansen said.

He noted that a lot of utility work needs to be done prior to the project. Hansen said other work in the area by Virginia Natural Gas “is drawing to a close,” and Verizon “is actively engaged” in moving their lines either underground or to other poles.

Suffolk Police and city traffic engineers will manage traffic in the area to minimize delays and support traffic flow.