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The signs are part of a list of interim improvements the department said it will make between Exits 74 and 76, responding to a political outcry from local legislators who asked for immediate improvements after the accident that killed three people when the northbound tanker crashed through guardrails into oncoming traffic.
The improvements will include making the warning signs fluorescent yellow; adding speed-limit signs in the median on the section of highway where the speed limit is 50 mph; installing signs one mile and a half-mile before the lower speed limit to warn drivers of the drop; and putting “flashers” on the signs.
The DOT could not provide an estimate on the cost of the interim improvements Thursday, though two local legislators expected it to be covered in the department's normal budget.
State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said she was pleased to see the DOT respond to specific requests made by the local delegation, including that the signs be made more visible, but added that real improvement would come with the “longer-term construction plans,” including widening the highway and extending Route 11.
State Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said he has follow-up questions for the DOT, including specifics on the timeline and what the department's experts think about modifications to Exit 75 — specifically, whether the on-ramp to northbound traffic should be altered to prevent drivers from crossing to Interstate 395 or whether the exit should be closed, two popular suggestions after the crash.
Both Jutila and Stillman pointed out that the list does not include jersey barriers, which Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the DOT to install after the crash.
DOT Spokesman Kevin Nursick said Thursday the department should have an idea on the timeline for installing the jersey barriers within a month or so. Nursick said the DOT is looking at “full height” barriers that include 16 inches buried underground and are 45 inches above ground.
Instead of installing them in the center median, the department would install the barriers along the left edge of the breakdown lane, alternating between northbound and southbound; that way, the barriers would be near the center but would not intrude upon a drainage system that runs in the center median, Nursick said.
The barriers would include custom slots to allow water to drain underneath and into that median drainage system, he said. Nursick said a “rough estimate” on the cost of the barriers is $4 million to $5 million.
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