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Crash Brings Concrete Barriers To I-95

Starting Monday, the state Department of Transportation will begin installing concrete barriers in the median of Interstate 95 near where a tanker truck crashed through metal guard rails into oncoming traffic last November, killing three people.

The project involves installing 1,800 feet of the barriers in East Lyme between exits 75 and 76, from the Route 1 overpass to the I-395 split. The work will take place between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday and will include left lane and shoulder closures during work hours.

The work is expected to take five weeks. The DOT has contracted with the Arborio Corp. in Cromwell for the work.

In early November, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the DOT to install the barriers “as soon as possible” after the Nov. 2 tanker truck crash.

The department already planned to put up barriers on the section of highway between the Gold Star Memorial Bridge and the Baldwin Bridge as part of a “modernization process” and, because of the governor's order, has broken the project into smaller parts, beginning with the East Lyme section.

The DOT will eliminate grassy medians, install the concrete barriers in the center medians and install new guard rails. It will eliminate the grassy medians because they pose maintenance problems, said department spokesman Kevin Nursick, including bringing in heavy equipment to mow them.

“This work will further protect the thousands of car and truck drivers and passengers who use this stretch of I-95 every day,” Rell said in a press release issued Friday, adding later, “The faster we can make these improvements, the faster we will protect motorists.”

Nursick said the agency next spring will continue the project between Exits 72 and 75, which will include installing updated metal guard rails in certain locations along right-hand shoulders and some new asphalt.

The cost for the first two parts of the project is estimated at $20 million. Nursick said he doesn't yet have an estimate for the full project.

The barriers are designed to prevent “crossover penetration” — a vehicle crossing through the median into oncoming traffic — and redirect vehicles up to 80,000 pounds, the legal load limit.

The concrete barriers being installed are beefier than the “jersey barriers” most people typically think of, Nursick said.

They are 20 feet long with a tapered shape, about 2 feet thick at the base and 8 inches thick at the top. About a foot of the barrier is in the ground and 4 feet is above ground, and the barriers are connected to each other.

The barriers are reinforced with rebar, Nursick said.

Because of the design, he said, a vehicle that hits the barrier hits wheels first and is redirected into the travel lane, going in the same direction rather than crossing into oncoming traffic.

The barriers were custom made for the DOT, taking into consideration drainage issues, Nursick said. Cutouts in the barriers allow water to flow underneath and into existing drainage basins.

The barriers are part of a package of measures intended to improve safety in the area. The DOT repainted the highway lines in the week after the tanker crash, and in February installed extra signs to warn drivers of the reduced speed limit near the I-395 split as well as merging traffic in the area.
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