Blasting resumes next week along Interstate 81 near Christiansburg, but it won’t be a blast for southbound drivers. VDOT plans to detour all traffic heading up the mountain when blasting takes place to build a new climbing lane. The detour will begin at Dixie Caverns and take southbound traffic up US 11/460 back to I-81 at Christiansburg when blasting takes place.

[audio:|titles=07-29 Blasting Wrap1-WEB]

Here is the full VDOT news release:

SALEM – Blasting on the road construction project to add a truck climbing lane to southbound Interstate 81 in Montgomery County between mile markers 120 and 125 will begin again on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Concerned about traffic delays on southbound I-81 during previous blasting operations, the Virginia Department of Transportation temporarily had halted blasting on the project on July 14.  VDOT has been working with its design-build contractor CH2 MHILL Constructors, Inc. of Chantilly to develop a better plan for traffic management.

The time needed for post-blast scaling operations to ensure safety, not debris in the roadway, caused most of the delays.  After a blast, heavy equipment is used to remove any unstable debris and boulders along the slope next to the travel lanes and ensure that roadway is safe for southbound I-81 traffic to resume normal flow without risk of falling rock.  Even with equipment in position and ready to go, the time needed to stabilize the rock slope varies.

The revised traffic management plan is as follows:

  • Starting Tuesday, Aug. 2, blasting will be scheduled daily, Monday through Thursday, between 11 a.m. and noon.  Blasting days may be expanded to include Friday depending on traffic volumes.
  • Southbound I-81 traffic will be detoured off I-81 at exit 132 (Dixie Caverns) onto Route 11/460 and back onto I-81 at exit 118 (Christiansburg).  The detour will be implemented daily sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and will be removed immediately once slopes have been scaled and the road is deemed safe for the traveling public.  State Police will assist with this detour.  A right lane closure will be in place on southbound Route 11/460 during the detour.
  • On northbound I-81, a rolling road block starting at mile marker 114 sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. will be used to slow traffic.  During blasting, the on-ramps will be restricted onto northbound Interstate 81 at exit 118 (Christiansburg) and onto southbound I-81 at exit 128.
  • Traffic on Route 626 (Den Hill Road) will be stopped within one-half mile of the Route 626 bridge over Interstate 81.  Motorists should watch for flaggers.

Blasting on the truck climbing lane project is expected to continue through spring 2012. Construction of the new truck climbing lane will require approximately 300 blasts to move a million cubic yards of rock and dirt.  So far, since May, 30 blasts have been detonated and approximately 80,000 cubic yards of material has been moved.


Work on the truck climbing lane project is expected to be completed in November 2013.