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News

DOT Outlines First Phase Of $330M Highway Interchange Project In Meriden

DOT outlines first phase of $330M highway interchange project in
DAVE ZAJAC
/
The Record-Journal
A view looking north shows motorists on a sharp curve exiting I-691 east to I-91 north in Meriden, Fri., Aug. 6, 2021. State Department of Transportation officials outlined a construction timeline for the first of three phases of work to improve a convoluted interchange of major highways that converge in Meriden. The first phase includes making a two-lane connection eastbound from I-691 to I-91 north.

State Department of Transportation officials outlined a construction timeline for the first of three phases of work to improve a convoluted interchange of major highways that converge in Meriden.

Officials fielded questions about a project to improve safety and reduce congestion on interstates 91 and 691, and routes 66 and 15 during a recent hearing. The design phase and noise study are underway, requests for qualifications will go out in the fall and requests for proposals at the end of the year. The design/build contract will be awarded next summer, and construction is expected to begin in fall 2022. Work is slated to be completed in the spring of 2025.

“This project is designed to improve safety and congestion,” said DOT project manager Sebastian Cannemela.

Over the course of three years, the DOT has recorded 90 crashes along I-91 northbound near the junction, with 17 injuries. Of those, 26 were rear end crashes indicative of congestion, 21 were sideswipe crashes, indicative of weaving, and 31 were fixed object collisions indicating a vehicle went off the road.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $57 million and the overall cost of all three phases is estimated at $330 million. Roughly 120,000 vehicles travel I-91 north daily, and 80,000 travel eastbound I-691, according to project engineers.

The first phase includes making a two-lane connection eastbound from I-691 to I-91 north. The project involves widening the existing ramp from I-691 east to I-91 north to two lanes and widening I-91 north to accommodate an auxiliary lane from this interchange to the Middletown rest area.

Construction will be at off peak times, project officials said. Work consists of redesigning exit 11 on I-691 to add a lane and rebuild a two lane bridge at the merge to I-91 north. The Preston Avenue exit will also be reconfigured with two lanes and the existing bridge replaced.

Engineers don’t expect any lane closures during peak hours, but commuters can expect the same construction disruptions as with other large highway projects.

Members of the public who attended the virtual hearing questioned project managers on noise, traffic and how the timeline of the three phases was decided.

Funding has a lot to do with setting priorities, Cannemela said. As a federal infrastructure bill moves forward in Congress, more funding could be available.

“At this time, this project is state funded,” Cannemela said. “The department has an opportunity to federalize the project at specific points. It’s going to be state funds until there are other funds available. The other two projects are expected to be state and federally funded.”

Exit 11 at the I-691/91 junction will expand from one lane to two lanes. Once the work is completed, the single-lane bridge will be demolished. Exit 12 of I-691 east at Preston Avenue will be widened to two lanes and the bridge also rebuilt.

“At least we’ve started with this section,” said City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest. “And we’ve got a project number for the other two sections. That’s a positive sign that it’s going to keep going. We really still have problems with 91 north onto 691, but that’s in the plans. They’re not saying this project is fixing the area, it’s improving the area.”

Members of the public raised concerns about noise impact and the installation of sound barriers.

“We are conducting the noise study,” said Sajjad Alam, project manager for Parsons design firm. “As part of the study we are developing a detailed noise model, and part of that is the anticipated increased traffic. We anticipate the noise study will be completed by the end of 2021.”

The DOT is accepting comments on the project until Aug. 20. Comments may be directed to project officials by calling 860-944-1111.

The southbound second phase of the project is estimated to cost $145 million and begin in 2025. It involves widening I-91 south to provide an auxiliary lane from the vicinity of the Middletown rest area to the I-691 west exit, widening the I-91 southbound off-ramp to I-691 west to two lanes, and widening the I-691 eastbound off-ramp to Route 15 south to two lanes.

The third phase is estimated to cost $110 million. Plans call for replacing the existing ramp connection from I-91 north to Route 15 north (Exit 17) with a new two-lane off-ramp from the existing off-ramp to East Main Street (exit 16). It also includes relocating the connection from Route 15 north to I-91 north approximately three quarters of a mile south of its present location and widening the existing off-ramp from Route 15 north to I-691 westbound to two lanes.