The stretch of Interstate 95 between exits 74 and 75 is known by drivers for accidents and congestion. But the state Department of Transportation (DOT) developed a plan to change that.
Under the proposal, I-95 would be widened, allowing for a potential third lane, in addition to an auxiliary lane connecting Exits 74 and 75 in both northbound and southbound directions, according to Susan Libatique, principal engineer for the DOT’s Division of Highway Design. It would give drivers more space and more time to merge on an off the interstate, she said.
The project is supposed to ease congestion. Between 2012 and 2014, within the project limits on I-95, there have been 139 crashes, 27 of them had injuries, according to DOT statistics. On Route 161, which would also see improvements, between Industrial Park Road to Route 1, there have been 108 crashes, 16 with injuries.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2021. The project is estimated to cost $140 million with 80 percent being funded federally and 20 percent funded through the state, according to a DOT news release.
Plans are also in the works to replace the I-95 bridge over Route 161 because of its “poor condition,” and to accommodate the widening on Route 161 underneath it, with turning lanes, according to the DOT. Libatique assured that it is currently structurally sound. And said the project would also accommodate bicyclists.
Exit ramps off the interstate will be made wider, allowing drivers to decelerate easier, according to Libatique. Ramps will also be relocated. The northbound I-95 exit 74 ramp will be moved south to form a new intersection, with traffic signals, with Route 161 and the Burger King Driveway, according to a DOT new release.
Another ramp will be created for drivers going southbound on Route 161, accessing I-95 northbound. The new entrance ramp will be about 500 feet south of its current location and be in the shape of a loop – to lessen the sharp turns and make it easier for drivers to accelerate onto the interstate.
The entrance ramp to I-95 northbound for drivers going north on Route 161 will stay where it is, but realigned, according to the DOT.
“Most of the problems at Exit 74 are the hairpin turns you have to make when you’re getting off the highway or the speed up to reach the speed that that the highway is going. We have a very antiquated on and off ramp there,” said East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson, adding the project will help the town.
Some people who live in town are concerned about the added congestion with the construction, though.
The DOT will hold a public information meeting about the changes on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at the Camp Niantic Army National Guard Base, NETT Hall at 18 Smith Street, Niantic. An open forum begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 7 p.m.