I-95 congestion 'less than expected'
Waterford — Just less than halfway in to the 34-hour, construction-related closure of one lane of Interstate 95 north, workers under the bridge over Oil Mill Road reported seeing a traffic volume that’s been “less than expected.”
About 11 a.m., John Deliberto, who’s managing the project to replace the bridge’s elements, said things were “right on schedule,” too.
“We’re just hoping everything continues as it’s been going,” Deliberto said.
The 34-hour closure of the left lane of I-95 north, which began Monday at 8 p.m., is one of three such closures that will take place in the coming months.
During each closure, workers on site will remove one section of the old bridge and slide into place a new, pre-manufactured section.
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, traffic backed up on I-95 north from the Oil Mill Road exit to about one-half mile south of Exit 75. Motorists crawled steadily along toward the construction, however.
On state routes 1 and 156, traffic continued to flow smoothly with few interruptions.
This week, it’s the left lane of the northbound bridge that’s affected. Next week, it’ll be the right lane. In October, the bridge portions supporting both southbound lanes will be swapped on dates yet to be determined.
The $5 million project, which began in March, uses a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction. It’s considered less disruptive and faster than more traditional bridge replacement practices.
Even so, last week, state Department of Transportation officials warned that traffic could back up to the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge — 10 miles away from the Oil Mill Road bridge — during the closure.
Just before 11 a.m., traffic was slowing to a near-halt at Exit 73, the Society Road exit, in East Lyme.
It took a reporter more than 16 minutes to get through the 3-mile stretch that typically takes about 5 minutes to traverse, according to a Google Maps estimate.
At 1 p.m., the congestion was creeping closer to Exit 72, and Google Maps began suggesting motorists take Four Mile River Road to state Route 1 to avoid the slowdown.
But when another Day staffer drove through the area around 2:30 p.m., the backup had shrunk again, this time not starting until half a mile beyond Exit 73.
When asked why he thought traffic had been lighter than expected, Deliberto pointed to the campaign ahead of the closure to spread awareness about it.
"We put a lot of press releases out there, and we put the messages up on the message boards," he said. "It seems like people heeded our warnings. That's the only guess I have."
In East Lyme, where people often use state routes 1 and 156 to avoid whatever is happening on I-95, police Sgt. Paul Renshaw said the DOT provided a few extra patrols in anticipation of heavier-than-usual traffic, but that traffic hadn't been "too bad."
Sitting in a cruiser outside the Flanders Fire Department, Renshaw gestured toward Church Lane. At one point, he said, bumper-to-bumper westbound traffic had extended past there, but it didn't last long.
"We're not sure what might develop as the day goes along, so we're just going to keep monitoring the traffic," he said.
Nearby, business owners and residents along Route 1 grumbled about summer traffic but said they hadn't noticed a particular bump in congestion Tuesday.
Maddy Bowman, a waitress at East Lyme Pizza, said it's not unusual when folks who seem to have detoured away from I-95 come in to the restaurant.
Some have kids who need to use the bathroom or grab a quick bite. Others have traveled a long distance and simply need a break.
On Tuesday, Bowman said nothing was out of the ordinary; orders were steady at the store's 11 a.m. opening and began to falter after 2 p.m.
But Bowman, an East Lyme resident herself, said she's heard plenty of people complain about the stretch of I-95 between exits 70 and 80, which has been under construction in one way or another for months.
"It's always right here that is affected because of the detours," she said. Residents "don't understand why they're doing construction during the summer."
Day Staff Writer Deborah Straszheim contributed to this report.
Interstate 95 traffic map
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