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The Reconstruction of Military Highway

Regis Schuler
Project Manager
Michael Baker Corporation, Virginia Beach

With the country now preparing to go to war, the same thing was occurring over sixty years ago with the advent of World War II. The military build up meant more people locating in the area, and with people comes cars, plenty of them. So many in fact the City of Norfolk could not keep up with the growth. The military needed to move men and material fast and could not be bogged down in traffic. So, Federal, state and city officials put their heads together and came up with a plan to build a more efficient highway to alleviate traffic problems. All parties agreed on a 15-mile long section, from Chesapeake to Taussig Boulevard in Norfolk.

The proposed "super" highway, named Military Highway, was designed and built in 1943 for approximately $2.5 million. Military Highway can lay claim to a lot of "firsts." It was one of the first multi-lane (4-lanes, two in each direction) constructed in the area. The new roadway included several overpasses, bridges, interchanges and a traffic circle. The cloverleaf interchange constructed at Military Highway and Virginia Beach Boulevard was the first ever built in the state.

After the war, businesses and residential development soared. With the development of Janaf Shopping Center, Military Circle Mall, Best Square Shopping Center and other large developments brought thousands of additional people into the area to live, work and shop. With the influx of people came even more cars. More than 50,000 vehicles traveled along Military Highway daily with 67,000 vehicles expected by the year 2010. The old "super" highway could no longer support the increased traffic volumes. The existing lanes were insufficient to handle the traffic and the bridges, especially the one at the Military Highway/Virginia Beach Boulevard cloverleaf, which had physically deteriorated to a point where restricting commercial vehicles, due to their weight, and reduction of speed was necessary.

Once again a call to arms was sounded, but this time it was to rebuild Military Highway. The City and the Virginia Department of Transportation both agreed that a major road and bridge rebuild was necessary. VDOT hired Michael Baker Jr., Inc. (formerly C.E. Maguire and Maguire Associates, Inc.) of Virginia Beach, Virginia to prepare conceptual design study and perform final roadway and bridge design. The project limits were from I-264 to I-64 at Robin Hood Road. Work commenced on the project in 1985 beginning with the preparation of the Conceptual Studies Report. The report included analysis of all traffic movements and lane configurations necessary to provide adequate level of service for design year 2005.

Results of the analysis were used in developing alternate roadway designs and layouts. At-grade intersections, flyovers, urban, cloverleaf and diamond interchange were all considered. Plans were completed, public meetings held, and a decision made on the final design. There would be 10 lanes from I-264 to Military Circle Shopping Center, eight lanes to Princess Anne Road/Northampton Boulevard and six lanes to I-64 and Robin Hood Road. The bridges over I-264 and Curlew Drive were to be new construction, building one side, then the other. The cloverleaf interchange and bridge at the Virginia Beach Boulevard interchange was removed and replaced with a Single Point Urban Interchange or SPUI. This was another first for the area. The SPUI was the first of its kind to be built in the area. The new structure replacing the original bridge is 478 feet long and 121 feet wide. It is a three span structure with the center span measuring 218 feet. Minimum clearance of 16'-6" was met. Approximately 1000' of reinforced cantilevered retaining wall was constructed.

Major utility relocations were considered and designed, including replacing two 48" raw water mains. Maintenance and protection of traffic during construction presented major design challenges. Plans were developed to ensure a safe transition from one stage to the next. Feedback from citizens and business were considered while developing the plans. Regular meetings with civic leagues and area businesses were conducted to solicit feedback concerning design issues, construction concerns and project scheduling.

The road and bridge plans were completed in December 1995. Construction began the following year with the contract being awarded to E.V. Williams of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The construction costs were on target and within budget and time allotted. In fact, the contractor completed the project earlier than planned. The official completion date was June 1999. To quote the Honorable Paul D. Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk, "The Military Highway corridor renovation is perhaps one of the most challenging and yet rewarding projects that the City of Norfolk has ever faced. By communicating and building partnerships with the Virginia Department of Transportation, contractors, area businesses and residents, the project was a success."

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