The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is reconfiguring Exit 74 on I-95 and replacing the bridge over Conn. Route 161. Additionally, the new ramps planned for the I-95/Conn. 161 interchange will be completely realigned. (Photo courtesy of i-95eastlyme.com)
Work is officially under way to improve Interstate 95 in East Lyme, Conn., following an April 26 groundbreaking ceremony attended by state and local officials and led by Gov. Ned Lamont.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is reconfiguring Exit 74 on I-95 and replacing the bridge over Conn. Route 161. Additionally, the new ramps planned for the I-95/Conn. 161 interchange will be completely realigned to offer easier transitions on and off the highway, which the state believes will bring a significant safety improvement to the area.
In addition, the construction project includes making major improvements on a 1.3-mi.-long stretch of the interstate by adding full length acceleration lanes and creating 12-ft. shoulders. These upgrades should also help reduce the number of crashes in the area and allow traffic to move safer and more freely.
Right now, Exit 74's short on-ramps can be stressful for drivers trying to access the interstate, many of whom choose to go out of their way to reach other on-ramps to the freeway.
Statistics from CTDOT show people are right to avoid the area.
On average, 67,000 cars cross the I-95 bridge over Conn. 161/Flanders Road each day, leading to many accidents.
"Over a three-year period, we had nearly 200 crashes on I-95 and [Conn.] 161, resulting in over 50 injuries," said Garrett Eucalitto, commissioner of the transportation agency.
State Highway to See Improvements, Get New Overpass
Along Conn. 161, the project will add sidewalks and shoulders to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and mobility.
Because the bridge over Conn. 161 has been on a list of state bridges in "poor condition" for years, the structure is due to be replaced as well, and the vertical clearance issues will be eliminated.
Included as part of the effort, CTDOT noted, is a project labor agreement, which helps train the next generation of tradespeople.
Manafort Brothers Inc., based in Plainfield, Conn., was awarded the construction contract for the I-95 East Lyme Project, valued at $148 million. Eighty percent of the project's cost is federally funded through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the state.
At the groundbreaking, Lamont told the audience in East Lyme that getting so much funding from the federal government "was transformative for a state like Connecticut that has a lot of old infrastructure."
The road/bridge construction in eastern Connecticut is expected to be completed in 2027, according to CTDOT.
Connecticut Politicians Thrilled to See Construction Start
New Haven's WTNH-TV reported that East Lyme area businesses are booming, and Connecticut wanted the highway upgrade to keep the economic development going. State officials and transportation committee members see this as one of many improvements made possible with funding from Washington.
"Improving access to the highway and enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety is a win for East Lyme and everyone who lives and does business in the region," Lamont added. "This area is prone to crashes, which cause traffic delays and congestion. This project is significant for the safety and mobility of all who are using our roadway infrastructure."
"We have a strong package in front of us this year that will make sure we are taking advantage of every single opportunity that the federal funding provides," noted state Rep. Roland Lemar. D-96th District, who also serves as Connecticut's Transportation Committee co-chair.
The state's senior U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, called the effort a "milestone project that [aims] to untie a major traffic knot on our busiest interstate, making great use of federal infrastructure dollars. As one who has endured this stretch of road — often caught in backups — I am looking forward to a speedier and safer ride. This federal-state partnership, which Governor Lamont has helped lead, is a national model."
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