Completion of Virginia’s privately financed Interstate-95 Express Lanes extension will be delayed by at least a year, as contractors contend with troublesome soils and supply-chain issues.

Transurban, which manages the P3 project for the Virginia Dept. of Transportation, says the revised target opening date—pushed back from October 2022 to late 2023—results in large part from difficulties associated with highly plastic clay-and-silt-laden Potomac Formation soils at several locations along the 10-mile project corridor in Stafford County.

Although the subsurface conditions were discovered before the project’s design-build joint venture of Branch Civil and Flatiron Construction (BFJV) began construction in 2019, Transurban says the soils proved more challenging than expected, requiring different construction approaches such as additional aggregated piers, incorporation of geogrid and, in some areas, full removal.

Transurban and BFJV put the question of responsibility for the soil issues’ cost and schedule impacts before an arbiter, who ruled last October that the joint venture was entitled to a contract adjustment. A subsequent settlement between two sides resulted in Transurban adding $100 million to the contract, bringing the total estimated project cost to $665 million.

Transurban spokesperson Tanya Sheres says the company felt that a quick resolution to the issue “is in the best interest of our partners, communities and travelers in Virginia.” She adds that the project, estimated to be 60% complete, was also affected by workforce and supply-chain issues during the pandemic, but that contractors have made significant progress on other elements such as overpass replacements, interchange upgrades and flyover ramps for new access points. 

When complete, the 10-mile extension will link with the existing Transurban-operated 39-mile reversible express-lane system along I-95 and I-395, serving both through travelers and Washington, D.C., region commuters. The project will boost the corridor’s current peak-hour capacity by 66%, according to Transurban.

To the south, the express lanes will connect with VDOT’s non-tolled Rappahannock River Crossing project, which aims to reduce I-95 congestion around Fredericksburg with additional lanes, improved connections to U.S. Route 17 and new 1,200-ft-long bridges.

Working under separate design-build contracts with the agency, Wagman Heavy Civil Inc., is set to wrap up the $132-million southbound expansion later this month, while the $172-million northbound upgrade is on track for completion in 2024.

Transurban is also building a 3-mile northern extension to the I-495/Beltway express lanes that it operates under a separate concession to VDOT.

Last year, Maryland selected a Transurban-led team for a progressive P3 initiative to develop a complementary express lanes network for portions of the Beltway and I-270 in Maryland, including an expanded Potomac River crossing.