DOT plans I-395 lane closure to complete bridge upgrades

Waterford — For 10 days starting Friday evening, the state Department of Transportation will close the southbound lane of Interstate 395 in Waterford to complete a $6 million bridge rehabilitation where the highway crosses Route 85.

Hoping to cut down on traffic delays, DOT advises southbound commuters, especially those familiar with the area, to avoid the impacted portion of I-395 by taking Exit 5 for Route 32 toward Interstate 95 in New London. Throughout the 10-day lane closure, Waterford police and state police will help guide commuters through a temporary intersection at the I-395 south Exit 2 off- and on-ramps and Route 85.

The project replaces the bridge deck and parapet, and installs a precast concrete median barrier that will be safer than the current railing, project engineer Andrew Millovitsch said. The first half of the rehab saw an overhaul of the northbound section of the bridge; contractor Mohawk Northeast, which has performed repairs on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, finished northbound improvements three days ahead of schedule last month.

Millovitsch said Wednesday that from a budget perspective, "we are right on target for original estimated amount."

I-395 and Route 85 combined handle more than 50,000 vehicles daily in the area, according to DOT, which spread word of the project to surrounding towns and states, public safety agencies, nearby businesses and regional trucking companies to suggest diversion routes.

State troopers on the highway will detour I-395 southbound drivers down the Exit 2 off-ramp toward a light, managed by Waterford police 24 hours a day, on Route 85. Highway drivers then will cross Route 85 and enter the southbound on-ramp to hop back on I-395. Northbound traffic will not be impacted, DOT and police said.

Millovitsch said the state and commuters were lucky to have a rare layout of both north- and southbound off- and on-ramps "directly across from each other," enabling the temporary intersection. Still, Waterford police, state and local officials urge drivers to expect delays and be careful.

Commuters getting off Exit 2 from I-395 south to Route 85 may not have two left turning lanes available, Millovitsch said, because DOT occasionally will close Route 85 lanes near the bridge when doing work overhead. Out of precaution, the contractor temporarily may halt traffic for up to 10 minutes on Route 85 while a crane hooks up to precast bridge deck panels, swings them out over the empty roadway and onto the bridge.

DOT has planned the project since 2017, when routine inspections of the 1957 bridge revealed the deck needed replacing. The substructure, girders and almost all the structural steel on the bridge are solid with only minimal repairs required, according to DOT. Mohawk Northeast will blast clean and paint the steel, protecting it from the elements and extending its longevity.

Millovitsch said the Accelerated Bridge Construction process approved by DOT might seem temporarily painful to commuters, but causes less frustration than the alternative: a costlier four- to six-stage construction including a year or 18 months of bridge lane shifts and closures.

The lane closure begins at 6 p.m. Friday.

Anyone with questions regarding the project should email dot.constrD2@ct.gov, and the email subject line must include project number 152-158 or 0152-0158.

b.kail@theday.com

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