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Drivers will be able to use I-95 shoulder near Piscataqua River Bridge at peak traffic times

The Piscataqua River Bridge connecting NH and Maine on Interstate 95 sees up to 120,000 vehicles each day during peak summer weekends.
The Piscataqua River Bridge connecting NH and Maine on Interstate 95 sees up to 120,000 vehicles each day during peak summer weekends.

Editor's note: On Thursday afternoon, NH DOT announced it would need to delay testing of the system by two weeks due to "networking issues."

Motorists on Interstate 95 approaching the Piscataqua River Bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine will soon be allowed to drive along the highway shoulder during peak travel times, giving motorists a fourth lane.

Transportation officials are set to begin testing an electronic sign system that will alert drivers in both states when the breakdown lane is open for travel. That will include on the bridge itself, which sees heavy backups during summer weekends.

“There can be quite a few cars going over the bridge,” said Richard Arcand with New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation. “During the peak travel time, there are about 120,000 vehicles per day.”

Under the plan, the breakdown lane will offer a fourth lane of travel starting around Exit 5 for northbound motorists, extending across the bridge and ending near Exit 3 on the Maine side of the highway.

Drivers in the southbound lane will also be able to use the shoulder.

View a DOT flyeron how the system will work.

Newly installed electronic signs will alert motorists when the breakdown lane is open for travel, with red and green arrows indicating if the lane is open. A yellow arrow will alert drivers in the breakdown lane that they need to merge back onto the marked highway.

Rather than use pre-set times, transportation officials will monitor traffic patterns and ensure there are no broken down vehicles using the shoulder when activating the additional lane for travel.

Testing of the new system will last for several weeks.

Maine and New Hampshire are splitting the $9.5 million price tag, which included laying fiber optic cable along the roadway.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.

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