Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) looking for a way to improve I-95 between Rhode Island and Branford.
CTDOT started a new study of I-95 which will help identify the short and long term solutions needed to deal with the increase in traffic since the construction of the freeway and the increase expected in the years to come.
CDM Smith, an engineering and construction firm, along with CTDOT made two presentations Tuesday on the I-95 Environmental Linkages and Planning Study in Eastern Connecticut that began this year, and they seek feedback from residents on how they think the highway can be improved. .
The corridor area is expected to experience 18% population growth and 26% job growth between 2016 and 2050, a faster rate than all of Connecticut, said Krista Goodin, project manager at CDM Smith.
Goodin said the I-95 corridor from Branford to Rhode Island was previously studied in 2004 and later studied in an update in 2018. Both studies identified the need for additional capacity to cope with increasing congestion and recommended improvements, including widening in some areas and safety and design improvements at interchanges.
CTDOT is currently undertaking a Corridor Planning and Environmental Linkage Study, a type of study intended to “consider environmental, community and economic objectives from the outset of the transportation planning process” and “to use the information, analysis and products developed during planning to inform and streamline the development of the transportation project. transportation and the environmental review process,” according to the project’s website. The study is also “intended to provide the framework for the long-term implementation of transport improvements as funding becomes available”.
Becca Hall, assistant project manager at CDM Smith, described the issues with the corridor. Many shoulders are too narrow, six bridges are in poor condition and almost half of the interchanges, including exits 86 and 87 at Groton, are too close together.
The 59-mile-long stretch of freeway has 5 on- and off-ramps on the left, which can cause traffic to slow down in the left lane, Hall said. In addition, 70% of exit ramps and 55% of on-ramps are too short, causing motorists to slow down on the highway. In addition, 40 exit ramps and 33 on-ramps have curves that are too tight, and the highway itself has steep grades and seven curves that are too tight.
According the Connecticut Accident Data Repository, there were 2,925 accidents in the study area from 2018 to 2020. About a quarter of the accidents resulted in injuries and 19 were fatal. During summer weekends, collisions were 67% higher than the annual average.
The project team said they have collected data on the corridor, but there is no action plan to improve it at present. They seek to hear the inhabitants.
After the presentation, people asked the CTDOT questions.
In response to questions about bottlenecks on I-95 in East Lyme, Scott Harley of CDM Smith said the team noted a number of issues in this area, including narrow shoulders, steep vertical grades and very close together between exits 74, 75 and 76 on and exit ramps. The northbound 76 exit ramp is on the left side, which is contrary to drivers’ expectations because most Connecticut exit ramps are on the right side.
Harley said next spring that the CTDOT plans to launch a project centered on rebuilding the Exit 74 Interchange and includes replacing the bridge carrying I-95 on Route 161. He said the design team will also continue to look for solutions to reduce congestion and improve safety on this section of I-95.
The CTDOT asked residents to comment on the draft statement of the corridor’s goals and needs and what they think needs improvement based on their day-to-day experience. The official comment period ends on November 30, although CTDOT said it would welcome comments throughout the project.
A final report is expected to be completed by fall 2023, Goodin said.