Few pieces of infrastructure are more important to the health and vitality of a region than its roadways. Connecting rural areas, remote destinations and urban centers, direct and well-maintained roads promote commerce and literally bridge gaps between communities.
In Virginia, the Corridor Q/U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II project is bridging a 6.2 mile gap in Buchanan County—creating a new stretch of four-lane limited access highway between Phase I of the project near the Kentucky Border and the start of the future U.S. Route 121 (Coalfields Expressway). It is a difficult, mountainous stretch of land to navigate, requiring just the right contractor with the right skill sets to do the job well. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) partnered with general contractor Bizzack Construction on a design-build contract to take this stretch of road to rough-grade and make the vision of Route 460’s new Appalachian pathway a reality.
Building new connections
The Corridor Q project brings some significant benefits to Buchanan County. “It’s part of an overall project to bring better access to the community,” says Stewart Gaither, Vice President of Bizzack Construction.
As U.S. Route 460 is completed, it will create a stronger connection between Buchanan and the rest of Virginia, but also far beyond.
“US-460 runs through several states, so this will help connect this area with better roads to provide economic development and job opportunities while we’re doing the work,” says Gaither. “Then afterward it will provide the ability for these people to travel to other places for jobs, or to bring jobs to the community.”
Coal synergy plays a significant role in making this project viable and affordable for the state of Virginia. Coal synergy reduces road building costs substantially by using coal companies’ larger-scale earth moving equipment to prepare the road bed to rough grade, allowing the companies to recover marketable coal reserves during road bed preparation, states VDOT. While Bizzack is not in Buchanan to mine for coal, it does make use of the valuable coal that it does encounter throughout its road building endeavor.
“A lot of people think we are out there mining coal, and we are not—that’s not what we do, we build roads for a living,” notes Gaither. “But we optimized the design so that if we encounter coal within the footprint of the project, then by mandate we are required to harvest those natural resources . We use that revenue to offset the cost of the project so we can give VDOT and the citizens of Virginia a better value.”
The concept of coal synergy is also one way that the Corridor Q project is bringing both infrastructure and jobs to the region immediately. “The project wouldn’t be done if it wasn’t for coal synergy—that’s what’s helping fund the project,” says Gaither. “If it wasn’t for coal synergy, we wouldn’t be doing the work and the people we’re employing down there to do the work wouldn’t have that job.”
Working closely for higher safety standards
To achieve the goals of this project, Bizzack Construction has been working very closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation from the start, with submittals to VDOT at every step of the design stage for review and approval before moving forward. During the build stage, VDOT and Bizzack rely on a multi-layered approach to quality control to ensure that the construction process stays up to standard.
“We have three layers of quality control on the project—quality control, quality assurance, and independent assurance which is directly hired by VDOT,” says Gaither. “We have a quality control plan put in place for both design and construction, which specifically spells out the different requirements for QC, QA and IA.”
Safety is also of the utmost concern throughout the building process, encouraged by weekly safety training meetings for employees along with preparatory meetings to address specific issues for each phase of the project. Bizzack also requires each of its subcontractors and consultants on the project participate in preparatory meetings and follow prescribed regulations for the safety of all involved.
The right business for an important regional job
What makes Bizzack Construction the right fit for the job is a combination of its regional experience and the agility of its structure.
“We’re big enough that we can handle large projects like this, but we are not a large bureaucratic company—we’re a small family owned company,” says Gaither. “We’re very close to the people in the areas where we work, and we hire people from those areas that we work in. We have employees and management from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia.”
With this, Bizzack Construction is paving the way for a more connected future in the region.