April 08. 2013 10:54PM

Slowdowns ahead for motorists as I-93 expansion nears 2014 finish

Union Leader Correspondent

Construction crews work on the new southbound bridge over Route 111 in Windham on Monday as part of Interstate 93's ongoing expansion program. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

With the spring construction season officially underway, travelers on Interstate 93 can expect some delays.

State transportation officials say the $800 million highway-widening project is expected to make significant progress from Exit 1 in Salem to Exit 5 in Londonderry.

The ambitious project to create a six-lane, 20-mile stretch of highway from the Massachusetts border to Manchester started in 2007 with the construction of the Exit 4 Park-n-Ride in Londonderry, according to I-93 Project Manager Peter Stamnas.

On Monday night, work on the new Exit 2 interchange began in Salem, with the installation of a portable concrete barrier along I-93 southbound. Work on the $43.7 million barrier project, which will continue for at least another year, is being done by George R. Cairns & Sons of Windham.

Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said the work will take place from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., and will continue through Friday.

"It's anticipated this work will take five nights to complete, although additional days may be needed," Boynton said.

Project supervisor Jay Levine said the temporary barriers would serve to separate highway traffic from the work zone.

A temporary barrier on the northbound side will be installed next week.

"Once those shifts happen, we can begin hanging steel on the northbound bridge," said Levine, noting that's expected to happen toward the end of April. "This summer southbound traffic will go over a temporary bridge as we begin construction on the new median."

During construction on both sides, traffic will be reduced to one lane.

Exit 1 work

An extensive project surrounding Exit 1 is now in the final stages and should be completed this summer, according to Levine.

Improvements at Exit 1 include new northbound and southbound ramps, as well as the widening of both mainlines and replacement of both the north and southbound bridges over Lowell Road.

"We've still got quite a bit of cleanup work to do," Levine said, noting both the northbound and southbound segments near Exit 1 would be paved this summer.

Middlesex Corporation of Littleton, Mass., is in charge of the $30 million Exit 1 ramps, widening and bridgework project.

Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey said local safety officials are gearing up for some challenging months, but are keeping their eyes on the prize.

"We'll just have to deal with a little pain for a little longer before we can enjoy the benefits those changes will bring," Hickey said Monday.

Exit 3

Over Exit 3 in Windham, the reconstruction of I-93's southbound mainline bridge over Route 111 and Route 111A is ongoing.

"You'll see more and more of our trucks crossing over Route 111," Levine said."

The $35.1 million southbound widening project, which is being done by R.S. Audley, Inc., of Bow, will ultimately result in the relocation of a section of Route 111.

Another Bow company, E.D. Swett, Inc., has Exit 3's $12.1 million bridge replacement project.

The bridges will be completed sometime this September if all goes as planned.

And that means those living nearby can expect plenty of daytime blasting, Levine said.

He noted that construction crews are making one exception - blasting near a Windham kindergarten won't be done until after 6:30 p.m.

The two new bridges over Exit 3 should be completed later this year, though won't likely be open to traffic until late next year.

Exit 5

At Exit 5 in Londonderry, project plans include improvements to Route 28 and a new northbound interchange.

Severino Trucking Company of Candia has the project's $36.7 million bid.

The project should be completed by June 2014, officials said.

Final stretch

Stamnas said the final stretch of the project is scheduled to begin in fall 2014, with $231 million dedicated to construction of the northern segment.

Another $19 million will be devoted to the construction of Exit 4A, he said.

Stamnas said the state DOT has been given legislative authority to issue additional bonds to complete the project.

To date, $314 million in total construction projects are active or have been completed.

Another $38 million in construction project advertisements are required to complete mainline priorities, meaning the stretch of highway connecting the Massachusetts border to the weigh stations north of Exits 3 and 5.

Those mainline priority projects should be completed in 2016, Stamnas noted, though the entire project won't be finished until 2020.

Within the coming three years, project officials said the plan is to build over three miles of a new southbound section of the highway in the Exit 3 area. A big chunk of that project, which entails $40 million in ramp construction, will go to bid in September, Levine said.

"The final job there will be to build northbound on- and off-ramps, and address changes to Route 111A and the Route 111 intersection," Levine said on Monday. "That's when we'll be removing a lot of the northbound section that's no longer being used. It should clean up that area nicely."