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End date for Laskin Road construction unclear after latest delay

Work on Laskin Road — originally set to be finished last spring — will now extend until sometime in 2025. (Photo by Mechelle Hankerson)
Work on Laskin Road — originally set to be finished last spring — will now extend until sometime in 2025. (Photo by Mechelle Hankerson)

For years, business owners along Laskin Road and the drivers who travel it have probably wondered: How much longer will the orange cones be up?

The end date to widen the road in Virginia Beach was already pushed back once from last spring to this April.

And earlier this year, the contractor handling the project told the Virginia Department of Transportation it would need even more time to finish.

WHRO talked to Tim Kelley from VDOT to learn more about the delays.

What’s happening on Laskin Road?

VDOT is widening a two-mile stretch of Laskin Road from Republic Road in Hilltop to Red Robin Road on the other side of Linkhorn Bay. The project also includes improvements to First Colonial Road where it meets Laskin. The high-traffic corridor has lots of businesses on both sides, and for many years had functional feeder lanes on the outside of the road. 

To increase road capacity and improve safety, VDOT eliminated the feeder lanes, expanded Laskin to eight lanes and is also replacing an 86-year-old bridge over Linkhorn Bay.

The project broke ground in 2019. At the time, officials expected it would be done by 2023.

What’s taking so long?

VDOT spokesman Tim Kelly says one of the challenges through the whol project has been managing all the construction work on a busy main drag like Laskin while keeping the road open to traffic and making sure people can get to businesses along the corridor - something that’s been a complaint of business owners for years.

But what was meant to be a roughly three-and-a-half-year project has been stretched out.

Contractors have blamed the holdups on field conditions they didn’t know about beforehand, like, unknown and abandoned utility lines they’ve discovered as they’ve dug. Some of those have forced VDOT to redesign elements of the project, like sound walls.

“In this two-mile project corridor, you have 11 miles of utilities that are having to be addressed. About ten miles of those utilities have been completed,” Kelley said. Some of the utility work has required digging as deep as 13 feet below street level.

Soil conditions have also complicated the bridge replacement that’s part of the project, with soil softer and less supportive than originally anticipated.

“Those impacts have continued to kind of ripple into the project schedule,” Kelley said.

The project broke ground in the fall of 2019 and was expected to wrap up last spring. In 2022, the contractor said it would need another year, until this April. 

But now, the contractor has told VDOT it’ll need until sometime in 2025 to finish everything.

Exactly how long the latest delay will be is still up in the air, Kelley said.

Kelley said VDOT is doing a scheduled impact analysis based on what it's been told by the contractor. That will let the agency confirm when in 2025 residents can expect the project to finally wrap up.

What’s left to do?

There’s still plenty of underground utility work to be done, but Kelley said people should start seeing elements above ground starting to wrap up.

Sound walls are being completed, new traffic signals are going up, storm drains are being installed along First Colonial Road, and road surfaces, sidewalks, curbs and gutters are all in the process of being installed.

The most visible thing that’s still got to happen is the demolition and replacement of the eastbound side of the Linkhorn Bay Bridge, which Kelley said will start within the next month.

Do all these delays mean the cost is going up?

Definitely, but VDOT doesn’t know by how much just yet.

The cost has risen before, before and after that first delay. Before it broke ground, VDOT originally expected the whole project would cost $122.75 million. That price jumped by about $19 million in 2020, after the pandemic hit. 

When the project was delayed to 2024, the cost estimate was revised again to the most recent overall estimate of $150 million.

The latest delay will certainly increase the cost again, Kelley said. 

“It is unknown at this time the exact amount. Any estimates at this time would be premature,” he said.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

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