SALEM – A Connecticut Department of Transportation plan would reshape a 5-mile section of Route 85 between Salem and Montville: widening shoulders to accommodate bicycles, replacing two bridges, and replacing the intersection of Routes 85 and 161 with a single-lane roundabout.
Why a roundabout?
DOT is proposing to shift the intersection of Routes 85 and 161 a few hundred feet to the East, so that Route 161 will intersect at a new, single-lane roundabout where Route 85 currently intersects with Deer Run.
A new nearly 2,000 foot stretch of Route 161 will be built between Butlertown Road and the new roundabout. The existing stretch of Route 161 will be left as a town road, but will not connect to Route 85.
Jim Jussel, traffic engineer with consultant Benesch, said during a presentation of the project Wednesday night, that a pond on the north side of Route 85, and the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emmanuel Society site make it impossible to add turning lanes at the existing intersection.
DOT is planning to add turn lanes a few hundred feet to the West, where Chesterfield and Grassy Hill roads intersect with Route 85. The highway currently has just a single lane running in each direction at that intersection, but DOT is proposing to add a left turn lane onto Chesterfield Road from the southbound lane, and right and left turn lanes onto Chesterfield and Grassy Hill Roads from the northbound lane.
Why new bridges?
As part of the project, DOT is proposing to replace the bridges that carry Route 85 over Fraser Brook and Latimer Brook. The openings of both bridges aren’t wide enough to handle flows from major storms, according to DOT.
The Fraser Brook bridge is in Salem, just south of Woodland Drive. The structural condition of the bridge, which was built in 1921, is “satisfactory,” Steve Dreschler, the project manager from consultant Benesch, said.
But it is only 27 feet wide and the opening under it isn’t large enough to handle a 10-year storm, Dreschler said. The new bridge will be 37 feet wide and will be longer to create a larger opening capable of handling flows from larger storms.
The Latimer Brook bridge in Montville is also being widened from 28 to 40 feet across, to match the width of the roadway.
When will the highway be under construction?
The project is expected to begin construction in Summer 2024 and run through Summer 2026, assuming the project is able to receive all of its permits before then. There will be some overlap with construction on the reconfiguration of Exit 74 on I-95 in East Lyme.
Steve Dreschler, the project manager from consultant Benesch, said the project is just infished with preliminary design, so the sequencing of the different segments of work hasn’t been set at this point.
Dreschler said there will be overlap between construction of the different segments, but the bridges will have to be done separately because DOT plans to use the same temporary bridge for both.
During construction, one lane of traffic will be open and vehicles will pass in alternating directions, Dreschler said. All lanes will be open during peak traffic hours, so there shouldn’t be an impact on rush hour traffic, he said.
How much will it cost?
The project is expected to cost about $38 million, with 80 percent of the cost paid for by federal funds, and 20 percent by state funds, according to CT DOT.