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DOT urges alternate routes ahead of I-395 bridge closure

Benjamin KailMay 29, 2019

Waterford — The northbound section of Interstate 395 where it crosses Route 85 in Waterford will close for 10 days starting at 6 p.m. Friday as part of a $6 million bridge rehabilitation, prompting the state Department of Transportation to advise caution and urge commuters to avoid the area altogether to cut down on expected delays.

The two roadways — which combined handle more than 50,000 vehicles daily in the area — will feature a makeshift intersection at the I-395 north Exit 2 off- and on-ramps and Route 85 during the northbound phase of the project. DOT plans a similar 10-day project for the southbound lanes of the bridge tentatively scheduled to begin July 19.

The state Department of Transportation begins repairs to the northbound lane of Bridge No. 00255 where Interstate 395 crosses Route 85 in Waterford on Friday. DOT advises northbound commuters to avoid the area from Friday until Monday, June 10, suggesting they stay on Interstate 95 North to Route 32, as seen in the above map. During the bridge closure, Waterford police will manage a temporary traffic intersection, mapped below, where I-395 North travelers will be diverted down the Exit 2 off-ramp, over Route 85, and back onto the highway from the northbound on-ramp. Carlos Virgen/The Day

The state-hired contractor, Plantsville-based Mohawk Northeast Inc., will replace the bridge deck and parapet, and install a precast concrete median barrier that will be safer than the current railing, according to project engineer Andrew Millovitsch.

During the closure, state troopers on the highway will detour I-395 northbound drivers down the Exit 2 off-ramp toward a light, managed by Waterford police for 24 hours a day, on Route 85. Highway drivers then will cross Route 85 and enter the northbound on-ramp to hop back on I-395. Southbound I-395 traffic will not be impacted. Waterford police in a recent Facebook post said they expect significant delays overall and Route 85 to be heavily affected.

Millovitsch said the state and commuters were lucky to have a rare layout of both north- and southbound off- and on-ramps “directly across from each other,” enabling the temporary intersection.

“Traffic engineers looked at traffic counts and created cycled timing of lights to facilitate good flow for both Route 85 and I-395,” he said. “It should work. If for some reason we find there’s more or less traffic than expected, we are going to have Waterford police controlling the light. We don’t want backups to I-95.”

About 35,000 vehicles travel daily on I-395 near the bridge, known as Bridge No. 00255, while Route 85 sees about 24,000 vehicles a day in the area, according to DOT. DOT hopes to cut down on as much as 20 percent of traffic in advance by spreading the word to surrounding towns and states, public safety agencies, nearby businesses and regional trucking companies to suggest diversion routes, such as Route 161 to and from the Montville area, or Route 32 to and from Interstate 95 in New London. Electronic signs along the highways have alerted drivers to the upcoming construction the last few weeks.

“We’re hoping the locals who know these areas take the diversion routes,” Millovitsch said. “We’re really asking for the public’s help. Anybody who’s able to avoid that area for 10 days, help yourself and help everyone and stay away. If you work at Charter Oak Federal Credit Union or nearby, leave home a little early.”

The project has been in the works since 2017, when routine inspections of the 1957 bridge revealed the deck was due for a replacement. Mohawk Northeast, which has performed repairs on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, also will blast clean and paint the steel, protecting it from the elements and extending its longevity.

“We’re hoping that this rehab is going to give us another 50 years before we have to touch the bridge again,” Millovitsch said in an interview. He added that the substructure, girders and almost all the structural steel on the bridge were solid, with only minimal repairs required.

Millovitsch said the bridge closure required by the Accelerated Bridge Construction process approved by DOT might seem painful for commuters, but it’s a fraction of the frustration that could be caused by the alternative: a costlier four- to six-stage construction including a year or 18 months of bridge lane shifts and lane closures.

For safety reasons, commuters getting off Exit 2 from I-395 south will not have two left turning lanes available, Millovitsch said, because DOT occasionally will close lanes near the bridge on Route 85 when doing work overhead. The contractor may temporarily halt traffic for up to 10 minutes on Route 85 while a crane hooks up to precast bridge deck panels, swings them out over the empty roadway and onto the bridge, he added.

“The contractor will work around the clock and hit it hard with staff,” he said.

Messages left with Mohawk Northeast Inc. and the Waterford Police Department were not immediately responded to on Tuesday.

Anyone with questions regarding the project should email dot.constrD2@ct.gov, and the email subject line must include project number 152-158 or 0152-0158.

b.kail@theday.com

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