Interstate 64 in West Virginia
|Maintained by WVDOH|
|Length:||188.75 mi (303.76 km)|
|Existed:||1956 – present|
|West end:||I-64 at Kentucky state line|
|East end:||I‑64 / US 60 at Virginia state line|
In the U.S. state of West Virginia, Interstate 64 travels for 184 miles (296 km) passing by the major towns and cities of Huntington, Charleston, Beckley, and Lewisburg. It has only two major junctions within the state: Interstate 77 in Charleston and in Beckley.
In 1962, a lengthy segment from Exit 28 at Milton to just west of Exit 44 was opened to traffic. This included interchanges 34 and 39. One year later, Interstate 64 was completed to Exit 44, serving originally WV 17, now WV 817 near St. Albans.
1965 saw the completion of a major part of Interstate 64. A lengthy segment opened from the Kentucky state line (milepost 0) to Exit 15 at Barboursville. This consisted of four interchanges: Kenova and Ceredo at milepost 1, the West Huntington Expressway (WV 94, later US 52) at milepost six, US 52 and downtown Huntington (later WV 152/WV 527) at milepost eight, and Hal Greer Blvd. and WV 10 at milepost 10. Two steel-girder bridges were completed over the Big Sandy River connecting Kentucky to West Virginia. That bridge was replaced in 2000 in a reconstruction effort that raised the bridge level and replaced deteriorating bridge girders.
In 1966, the first Kanawha River crossing was completed with new interstate mainlines extending from Exit 44 near St. Albans to Exit 50 at Institute under four contracts. This included three new interchanges: Nitro at milepost 45, Cross Lanes at milepost 47 and Institute at milepost 50. One year later, Interstate 64 was extended eastward to Dunbar at milepost 52.40 with a new interchange constructed at that location. For six years, the interstate would end just outside Charleston's borders.
Charleston's routing troubles
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Planning for the routing of Interstate 64, as well as for Interstate 77 and Interstate 79 through Charleston, was embroiled in controversy since the 1950s. Several alignments were considered which included a northern arc around the Charleston metro area, a downtown route and a southern arc south of South Charleston.
The mayor at the time, John Shanklin, mayor for eight years from 1959 to 1967, was originally a strong opponent of any Interstate Highway going through the center of the city. Shanklin reversed his decision soon after, stated that Charleston can adjust to the impact and that it will eventually become a "great thing."
In 1971, the city and many residents were swimming in controversy over the proposed routes of the Interstate Highways. The long planned interstates through West Virginia were either to run directly through the city center or to skirt it.
The plan was to bring Interstate 64 through the Triangle District, just west of the downtown center, an urban blight where many of the city's black population lived. Home to the city's highest crime rates where shootings daily were common; it was referred to as the "Red Light District." Urban renewals in the past had failed. Residents living in the Triangle District formed committees and rebelled. They called the highway routing foolish because it wanted to make Charleston just another exit on an endless ribbon of concrete and that it was racist because the black population would bear the brunt of the relocation.
Federal transportation secretary John Volpe stalled for months at the decision on the routing of Interstate 64 through Charleston. By late 1971, however, the final decision was made to route the interstate through the Triangle District. The Triangle Improvement Council fought the decision for the downtown routing and took its case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They failed however, as they had no basis for their case. Construction began in September 1971, cutting away parts of 14 mountains and demolishing over 1,000 homes on the south banks of the Kanawha River. WV 14 and other roads were relocated. The Fort Hill project, named so because of the mountain that lies near the massive US 119 interchange, became one of the largest earth-moving projects on the North American continent up to that point and one of the biggest changes that Charleston has ever known.
- 1971: (Uses Interstate 77 mileage.) Construction began for the connection between the Interstate 77/64 interchange at Exit 101 (MP 101.64) to Exit 96 (MP 95.87).
- 1974: Interstate 64 opened to traffic from milepost 52.40, two miles (3 km) east of Exit 50 at Institute to Exit 55 (milepost 55.45). This included the construction of an interchange at milepost 54 for US 60 and WV 601 and a second Kanawha River span. When the river crossing was completed, it was one of the largest steel girder bridges in the United States at the time. Also, Interstate 77/64 opened from Exit 100 (MP 100.16) to Exit 99 (MP 99.12).
- 1975: Interstate 64 was completed to Interstate 77 which included the US 119 Fort Hill interchange (Exit 58A) at milepost 57.48. This segment also involved the construction of the third Kanawha River span, Exits 58B and 58C and the Interstate 77 junction at milepost 58.78. This three-level junction spans local streets and is the largest interchange in West Virginia with piers embedded in buildings, over water and over nearby streets. This also included the viaduct over the Triangle District.
- 1976: Interstate 77/64 opened from Exit 96 (MP 95.87) to the northern terminus of the West Virginia Turnpike at milepost 99.12 (Exit 99). The interstate concurrency was opened to traffic from Exit 100 (MP 100.16) to Exit 101 (MP 101.64). This completed the last segment of interstate within Charleston city limits.
Charleston east to Virginia
The alignment of Interstate 64 was to originally parallel US 60 from Charleston to the Virginia state line. This would go through environmentally sensitive areas such as Hawk's Nest and the New River Gorge area and might have disrupted the natural beauty and the isolation of the area.
In 1969, Governor Arch Moore announced a delay in the construction of Interstate 64 east of Charleston. He concluded that a study needed to be done on whether the highway should run parallel to US 60 east of Charleston. On March 28, 1974, Governor Moore concluded that Interstate 64 would be routed from Sam Black Church almost due west to a junction with the West Virginia Turnpike (I-77) near Beckley, rather than following the U.S. 60 alignment as initially proposed. From that point, I-64 was concurrent with the northern portion of an upgraded West Virginia Turnpike to reach the Charleston area. This section of I-64 is the only portion in West Virginia which is a toll road.
In 1971, Interstate 64 was completed from WV 12 (MP 161.46) to the Virginia state line at MP 184.02. This included six interchanges Exit 161 for WV 12, Exit 169 for US 219 and Lewisburg, Exit 175 for US 60 for White Sulphur Springs, Exit 181 for US 60 (WB only), and for WV 311 (EB only) at Exit 183. It was extended westward to Exit 156 (MP 155.98) at Sam Black Church in 1973.
The final segment of Interstate 64 to be completed was between Sam Black Church and the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley. This revised interstate alignment traverses through an entirely rural area with extremely rugged terrain. Opened in 1988, this final portion is 38 miles (61 km) long and cost approximately $300 million to construct, making it one of the most expensive segments of Interstate Highway in the United States at $7.8 million per mile. It has some extremely rugged terrain, with one segment boasting a 7% grade downhill eastbound for seven miles (11 km) at Sandstone Mountain. Anticipating loss of braking situations, two emergency truck escape ramps were built to be used by runaway trucks. These emergency ramps were used with such frequency that, in addition to large warning signs alerting truckers to the steep grade, a special truck speed advisory system was installed to automatically weigh each truck and indicate the speed at which it should begin the downhill section.
Even with careful adherence to reduced speeds for truckers, the journey from Charleston to Lewisburg is far quicker and far safer on I-64 than the older routing via U.S. 60, much of which winds through the mountains as the Midland Trail, a two-lane scenic byway, passing through hamlets such as Rainelle and Ansted.
Between milepost 129 and 133, also in Raleigh County, is the Phil G. McDonald Memorial Bridge, also known as the Glade Creek Bridge, a 2,179-foot (664 m) long deck truss bridge towering 700 feet (210 m) above the creek bed.
The difficulty of reaching downtown Huntington from Interstate 64 was quite evident since the highway's opening in the early-1960s. When the highway was first proposed in the late-1950s, Interstate 64 was originally to be led into the city of Huntington and cross much of the city on a viaduct similar to Charleston's. When the interstate was completed on the outskirts of the city instead, other means of shuttling people to and from the interstate and downtown were needed. A plan was devised that would radically reshape the city's major roadways. Two new underpasses would be constructed to carry traffic under the CSX railroad tracks that bisect the city—one at 15th Street and the other at 5th Street. The original intent was to pair a new and widened 15th Street with Hal Greer Blvd. (WV 10 - they parallel each other) and its existing underpass, and make each a flow in one direction. The plan also goes on to state that the curves on 5th Street Road would be straightened out and a wider bridge to be constructed at Four Pole Creek at Ritter Park. 5th Street from the bridge to the future underpass would be widened as well.
This never happened in full terms as money was in short supply. It would have been expensive to construct all segments of the plan. NIMBYism was also prevalent, as many residents complained it would destroy the quiet, residential neighborhood appeal.
Part of the plan was completed, however, in the early-1960s along Hal Greer Blvd. (WV 10). Proceeding southbound, Hal Greer Blvd. would use two 90-degree turns and use part of 15th Street as a four-lane one-way road. This would have been the southern end of the new 15th Street that was never fully constructed. Work began on March 19, 2003 to remove the dogleg as it appears the plan to add new underpasses and truly widen 15th Street will never be completed.
Continuing improvements and new interchanges were discussed throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
- Exit 20, the main road to the Huntington Mall and its associated developments along with US 60, was originally constructed as a diamond interchange that served Ona and US 60. The land surrounding the interchange was entirely rural and would not be developed until 1981 when the Huntington Mall was completed. The diamond interchange configuration was reconstructed into a five ramp partial cloverleaf. Exit 20A served US 60 while Exit 20B was for the Huntington Mall.
- By 2001, development consumed both sides of the interstate. On holiday shopping days, traffic would congest at the interchange and cause major backups on the interstate. In 2001, the West Virginia Department of Transportation constructed a new ramp, Exit 20A, that would serve US 60 and the west end of the Huntington Mall. The original Exit 20A ramp was removed. Exit 20B was kept, for the most part, in its current position with a left turn lane added that allowed it to serve the east end of the Huntington Mall, Melody Farm Road, and US 60.
- In 2001, a new interchange opened for the Merritts Creek Connector at Barboursville. Exit 18 serves a new four-lane highway that links US 60 and WV 2 together.
- In 2002, cable barriers were installed in the median from milepost 6 to milepost 15 as a stopgap measure. These new barriers, installed for $2 million, required the regrading of the median and upgrades to the drainage system. These new protective devices have proved to be worthwhile, preventing many crossover accidents which have plagued the highway since the 1990s, mostly attributed to an increase in traffic on the overburdened Interstate Highway. This cable barrier system was extended to Exit 28 at Milton in 2005 and future measures will ensure that the rest of the Interstate Highway system in West Virginia, where a depressed grassy median of similar width exists, will receive one.
- Aging roadbeds and bridges are of large concern to the Department of Highways. Many Interstate Highway spans are approaching the end of their useful life span, several nearing forty years of age. One such span was in the Huntington metro area which showed significant signs of deterioration. The Hal Greer Blvd./WV 10 crossings, were approaching 40 years of life, and decayed to the point where regular maintenance was needed. A three-foot by three-foot segment of the westbound bridge collapsed in early 2002 after a harsh winter, for example, and this only highlighted the problems being experienced on the original Interstate 64 spans. The two spans at Hal Greer Blvd. were replaced with a new wider crossing in 2009.
- In 2003, demolition of the West Pea Ridge Road overpass began. The bridge, built in 1961, utilized steel girders and had become deteriorated over the years and was replaced with pre-stressed concrete beams. Construction was completed in late-2004.
- The second Kanawha River crossing between Dunbar and South Charleston was twinned. The new bridge, carrying eastbound traffic, was finished in October 2010. The old bridge was rehabilitated and converted to one way traffic, with completion in October 2012. The combined bridges carry six through lanes, three in each direction, with two auxiliary lanes to service the Dunbar and MacCorkle Avenue exits on each side of the bridge. The main span of the new eastbound structure, at 760 feet, is the longest box girder span in the U.S. With the completion of the new eastbound bridge and the rehabilitation of the existing bridge for westbound traffic, I-64 has at least six lanes from Charleston to Nitro.
- Other notable recent projects:
- Darnell Road Bridge replacement. This is just west of the Barboursville/US 60 interchange at milepost 15. The four-lane span is being replaced with a six-lane crossing at a cost of $7.5 million. It was completed in mid-2006.
- The Hubbard Branch overpass near milepost two was replaced in 2005.
- The Edgewood Drive overpass near milepost three and the 19th Street overpass near milepost 5.5 and Exit 6 was replaced in 2006.
- The Crossroads underpass to tunnel conversion was completed in 2006 at milepost 12.
- The $5 million Milton interchange project at milepost 28 was completed in 2009.
- A new US 35 interchange in Teays Valley was started in 2003 and is now complete. A pseudo-flyover-diamond interchange variant connects I-64 to the new US 35 corridor route from Teays Valley to the previous US 35 alignment near Buffalo. In addition, I-64 has been widened to six lanes between this interchange and exit 39 at WV 34.
- Widening began on a segment from Nitro to Dunbar in 2001 and was completed in 2004.
The state's long-term construction forecast, for a six-lane interstate from milepost 6 at West Huntington to Charleston and bridge replacements west of milepost 6 to the Kentucky state line will take 30 years to complete at present funding levels and cost more than $325 million.
The portion from the Charleston city limits to the Kentucky state line is signed as the "Cecil H. Underwood Freeway". The portion in the city limits of Charleston is signed as the "Nurse Veterans Highway". The portion from the West Virginia Turnpike to the Virginia line is the Hulett Smith Freeway.
||This section contains a table that is missing mileposts for one or more junctions.|
|Wayne||Kenova||0.00||0.00||I-64 west – Ashland, KY||Kentucky state line|
|1||To US 52 south (WV 75) / WV 75 – Kenova, Ceredo||West end of US 52 overlap|
|Cabell||Huntington||6||US 52 north – West Huntington, Ironton||East end of US 52 overlap|
|8||WV 152 south / WV 527 north (5th Street East)|
|11||WV 10 (Hal Greer Boulevard) – Downtown Huntington|
|Barboursville||15||US 60 (29th Street East)|
|18||WV 193 to WV 2 – Barboursville|
|20A||To US 60 / West Mall Road (CR 160/18)||Eastbound exit only|
|20B||CR 60⁄89 (East Mall Road) to US 60 – Barboursville||Signed as exit 20 westbound|
|Milton||28||To US 60 (CR 13) – Milton|
|Putnam||Hurricane||34||CR 19 – Hurricane|
|||39||WV 34 – Teays Valley|
|Scott Depot||40||US 35 – Winfield, Point Pleasant|
|St. Albans||44||WV 817 – St. Albans|
|Nitro||45||WV 25 – Nitro|
|Kanawha||Cross Lanes||47||WV 622 (Goff Mountain Road) – Cross Lanes||Signed as exits 47A (south) and 47B (north) eastbound|
|||50||WV 25 – Institute|
|Dunbar||53||WV 25 / CR 25⁄25 (Roxalana Road) – Dunbar|
|South Charleston||54||US 60 (MacCorkle Avenue) to WV 601 (Jefferson Road)|
|55||To WV 601 / Kanawha Turnpike (CR 12)||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|56||CR 50⁄64 (Montrose Drive)|
|Charleston||58A||US 119 south / Oakwood Road – Logan||West end of US 119 overlap|
|58B||US 119 north / Virginia Street - Civic Center||East end of US 119 overlap; eastbound exit and westbound entrance|
|58C||US 60 (Lee Street, Washington Street) - Civic Center|
|59||I‑77 north to I‑79 north – Parkersburg||West end of I-77 overlap|
|See Interstate 77 (exits 101 to 40)|
|Raleigh||Beckley||121||I‑77 south – Princeton, Bluefield||East end of I-77 overlap|
|124||To US 19 (Eisenhower Drive) – Beckley, East Beckley|
|||125||WV 307 / CR 9⁄9 (Airport Road) – Beaver||Signed as exits 125A (WV 307) and 125B (CR 9/9) eastbound|
|||129||CR 9 (Grandview Road) – Shady Spring||Signed as exits 129A (south) and 129B (north) eastbound|
|||133||CR 27 (Pluto Road) – Bragg|
|Summers||Sandstone||139||WV 20 – Hinton, Sandstone||Access via CR 7 connector road.|
|||143||To WV 20 – Meadow Bridge, Green Sulphur Springs||Access via CR 4 connector road.|
|Greenbrier||||150||CR 29⁄4 – Dawson|
|||156||US 60 (Midland Trail) – Sam Black Church|
|Alta||161||WV 12 – Alta|
|Lewisburg||169||US 219 – Lewisburg, Ronceverte|
|White Sulphur Springs||175||To US 60 / WV 92 – White Sulphur Springs, Caldwell||Access via CR 60⁄14 connector road.|
|181||US 60 west to WV 92 – White Sulphur Springs||West end of US 60 overlap; westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|183||WV 311 – Crows||Eastbound exit and westbound entrance|
|188.75||303.76||I‑64 / US 60 east – Lexington||Virginia state line|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- "Route Log and Finder List - Interstate System - table 1". Federal Highway Administration. 2002-10-31. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- Release Date Report. West Virginia Department of Transportation. August 2003.
- "American Bridge - Glade Creek Bridge". American Bridge Company. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "Phil G. McDonald Memorial Bridge Inspection Report" (PDF). West Virginia Division of Highways. September 24, 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 6, 2010. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- "Phil G. McDonald Bridge". Highest Bridges.com. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- "West Virginia @ AARoads - Interstate 64 West - Green Sulphur Springs to Beckley". Aaroads.com. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
- I-64 Dunbar South Charleston Bridge. West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Media related to Interstate 64 in West Virginia at Wikimedia Commons
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