East Lyme — The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s plans for improvements to the I-95 interchange with Route 161 Flanders Road at Exit 74, include
- widening I-95 to add “auxiliary” northbound and southbound lanes
- widening of a section of Flanders Road
- full replacement of the bridge over Flanders Road
- the reconfiguration of the I-95 exit and entrance ramps
The project at Exit 74 is adjacent to where a 165,000-square-foot Costco is currently under construction.
A plan to address existing traffic issues
Representatives from CTDOT and H.W. Lochner, Inc. of East Hartford, which is the engineering firm designing the project, held an informational meeting for the public at the East Lyme Middle School auditorium on Thursday to explain plans for the $142.1 million infrastrastructure project.
About 70 people attended the meeting, which included an “open house” prior to allow the public an opportunity to review plans and to speak individually with CTDOT and Lochner personnel.
Ryan Allard, a project manager at Lochner, provided explanations for the PowerPoint slides of planned traffic configurations. Allard emphasized the purpose of the project was to address existing safety issues at Exit 74, on Flanders Road near the interchange, and along the stretch between exits 74 and 75. According to Allard, between 2016 and 2018, there were 175 traffic accidents in the area of the future project.
The project is expected to be paid for with 80% federal and 20% state funds. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021.
The Exit 74 project in detail
The planned changes to I-95 encompass an area beginning about 3,000 feet south of Exit 74, approximately across from the existing housing development at Gateway Commons. From there, the project extends north along I-95 to Exit 75.
The new I-95 southbound off-ramp will be expanded to two lanes and will be re-engineered with a wider radius terminating at a frontage road connecting with the future Costco and Flanders Road. The new ramp will accommodate speeds of 35 miles per hour. The current hairpin-curved ramp has a speed limit of 20 miles per hour.
The northbound off-ramp will be relocated south of its present location to form a new intersection with a stoplight at Flanders Road and the current location of a driveway to a Burger King franchise.
To enter onto I-95 north, vehicles traveling south on Flanders Road will have a new right-turn ramp with a wide loop heading north. Vehicles traveling north on Flanders Road will enter onto I-95 by way of a newly aligned right-turn ramp.
In addition, Flanders Road will be widened to four lanes, with designated left or right turn lanes, beginning at the intersection of Industrial Park Road and extending to approximately 500 feet south of the Route 1 (Boston Post Road) intersection.
The bridge over Flanders Road — described in “poor” condition — will be replaced, and the clearance height raised from 13’ 11” to 16’ 3”. The new bridge will also accommodate the widening of Flanders Road.
Changes to I-95
Changes to I-95 will include some leveling of the highway’s vertical geometry to fill approximately 17 feet of “dip” south of Exit 74, and removing about 8 feet of “rise” north of the exit.
On both sides of the highway, an auxiliary lane will be added between Exit 74 and 75 to allow vehicles sufficient acceleration and deceleration time when entering or exiting the roadway.
The reconstructed stretch of I-95 will continue to have a posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour but it will be engineered to accommodate a speed limit of 70 miles per hour.
The proposed improvements will also accommodate a future project to add additional lanes northbound and southbound along this stretch of I-95, according to a CTDOT handout provided at the East Lyme meeting.
Needed land acquisitions
Dennis McDonald, who represented the CTDOT division of Rights of Way, said the project will require at least two land acquisitions: the Starlight Inn at 256 Flanders Road and the Mobil gas station at 262 Flanders Road. The acquisition process includes a written offer of “just compensation” for the property, which land owners can negotiate. “If an agreement cannot be reached for whatever reason, the state will utilize the power of eminent domain and acquire the property in the process.”
Through traffic during construction
According to a handout provided by CTDOT, “the construction will be completed in six stages, with two through lanes in each direction on I-95 maintained throughout the construction. On Flanders Road, two through lanes in each direction will be maintained during peak hours throughout construction. Off-peak short-term detours will be required for ramp closures.”
One audience member asked how traffic would move in and out of the Costco site, considering the store is expected to open in 12 to 18 months.
Allard replied that Costco has a separate plan to build an interim road that will connect with Flanders Road prior to CTDOT’s redesign in 2021.
According to CTDOT data, between 70,000 and 74,600 vehicles per day travel through Exit 74. Flanders Road northbound from I-95 carries 16,700 vehicles per day and southbound 25,700 vehicles per day.
Neither CTDOT nor Lochner representatives were available on Friday to provide vehicle capacity data for the proposed redesign of I-95 and Flanders Road.