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I-93 expansion on track for completion

With the spring construction season officially underway, travelers on Interstate 93 can expect some delays in the coming weeks and months.

State transportation officials are predicting a busy warm-weather season for 2013, with the $800 million highway-widening project expected to make significant progress in the area stretching from Exit 1 at the Massachusetts border in Salem to Exit 5 in Londonderry.

Once completed, the four-lane, 20-mile stretch of highway from the Massachusetts state line to Manchester will be wider, safer and offer fewer commuting delays.

The ambitious highway project began in 2007, with the now-completed construction of the Exit 4 Park and Ride in Londonderry, according to I-93 Project Manager Peter Stamnas.

Stamnas said the final stretch of the project is scheduled to begin in fall 2014 with construction of remaining capacity improvements to the northern segment to cost $231 million.

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 3 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, according to project supervisor Jay Levine.

“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 April 8. “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.”

About $160 million in projects are in the works for the area stretching from Salem to Londonderry this summer, which includes several major projects that are expected to impact commuters.

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 north 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 conducting the $30 million Exit 1 ramps, widening and bridgework project.

On April 8, night work on the new Exit 2 interchange began in Salem, with the installation of a portable concrete barrier along the I93 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.

Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey said local safety officials are gearing up for some challenging months, but are definitely keeping their eye 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.

According to state Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton, the night work will take place mostly during non-commuter hours –from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. – and will continue through April 12.

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

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 and Boynton stressed that motorists traveling that way should remain alert at all times and obey all posted signs.

Over Exit 3 in Windham, the reconstruction of I93’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.

Boynton said things have worked out well for this bridge project, since southbound traffic is currently traveling on the future northbound mainline, allowing construction crews to work far away from traffic.

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 taking place in the meantime, Levine said.

He noted that construction crews are making one exception to that rule when it comes to blasting near a Windham kindergarten. Levine said they’ve spoken with town officials about the matter and agreed it would be best to blast in that area after 6:30 p.m.

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

Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan said state DOT officials have kept in regular contact with the town to address concerns about the blasting, particularly the blasting that’s happening near the Windham Cooperative Kindergarten.

Sullivan said project managers have worked closely with Windham fire officials to ensure the safety of nearby citizens. “Essentially, the state can do whatever it wants, but they’ve chosen to work with us,” he said.

According to Windham fire officials, any citizens living within 500 feet of the blasting zone have been notified in advance and the fire department will visit any of those homes to check for structural soundness should any of those residents have concerns.

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.

Londonderry Police Chief Bill Hart, who is also the interim town manager, said local police are readying themselves for a busy spring and summer season ahead.

“It will definitely have a moderate effect on traffic along Exit 5,” Hart said. “But we’re certainly prepared for it and I’m sure state police are as well.”

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