Crews Dodge Heavy Traffic on Route 140

Tue January 10, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Kip Fry

Heavy traffic along Route 140 in Franklin, MA, is causing a few problems.

Because so many drivers use Route 140, it has become dangerous and has forced its redesign. But now that work has begun, construction crews also must be careful because it is now just as dangerous for them as it was for motorists. Once the $18.5-million construction project is finished, however, many of the dangers will be eliminated.

The Middlesex Corporation of Littleton, MA, is overseeing the project in which 1 mi. (1.6 km) of a new four-lane section of Route 140, also known as West Central Street, will replace the old two-lane highway near the Franklin Village Shopping Center. Approximately 2,800 ft. (853 m) of the interchange onto Interstate 495 also will be reconstructed. As a result, the roads will be straightened, flattened and widened. In addition, two bridges are being replaced and surrounding wetlands moved and replicated.

According to Thomas Donnelly, resident engineer of the Massachusetts Department of Highways (MassHighway), visibility on the busy road will be improved with the new road.

“The existing highway has problems handling peak traffic flows,” Donnelly said. This, in turn, has created troubles for the construction crew.

“It is an active roadway, so we have to take the precautions necessary to deal with the heavy traffic,” said Bob Mabardy, executive vice president of Middlesex Corporation.

Approximately 1 mi. of Route 140 is being widened and straightened. Part of that section of road will be moved approximately 1,000 ft. (305 m) to the south and broadened on both sides on the rest of the highway.

The original road was much like a bulge, with traffic following a route similar in appearance to the outer perimeter of a tin can, according to Tony Navikonis, project manager of Middlesex Corporation. “We took out the bulge, so it is much straighter now,” he said.

By straightening the road, engineers have been able to eliminate the need for an old bridge the road once crossed. That bridge was in disrepair and has been slated to be demolished.

When finished, the highway will have two travel lanes going in each direction with a minimum width of 28 ft. (8.5 m) of pavement. Turning lanes also will be constructed at the intersections that will be affected by the project.

Two new bridges will be required. Because West Central Street will be wider, a new span is necessary to carry traffic on Route 140 over I-495. It is scheduled to be built in phases on the same footprint as the original and will be 556 ft. (169.5 m) long and 100 ft. (30.5 m) wide, according to Donnelly. It will be twice as wide as the earlier version with three lanes in either direction, including access and turn lanes. Traffic will need to be rerouted because construction is being done in three phases, so there is a concrete sequence being followed.

A smaller bridge will be needed on the I-495 off-ramp from the interstate to Route 140 where it crosses Mine Brook and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) rail line. It will measure 220 ft. (67 m) long and 76 ft. (23 m) across. The original bridge has an obsolete weight restriction of 9 tons (8.2 t), which must be brought up-to-date.

Both bridges will have reinforced concrete abutments, piers and decks with steel stringers, Donnelly said.

Interstate ramps also will be widened and signal lights added at the ramp intersections and roads leading into the shopping center.

The final main component of the project is the removal and relocation of more than 80,000 sq. ft. (7,432 sq m) of nearby wetlands. Donnelly explained that 51,185 sq. ft. (4,755 sq m) will be done on a permanent basis and 30,454 sq. ft. (2,829 sq m) done temporarily.

Not everything being moved is wetlands muck, however. A significant amount of standard excavation is occurring, including 200,000 cu. yds. (152,911 cu m) of earth and 10,000 cu. yds. (7,645 cu m) of rock.

Although Middlesex Corporation is in charge of the entire project, there are a number of subcontractors involved. They include Algar Construction of Brockton, MA (concrete form work); Aggregate Industries of Saugus, MA (paving); M&P Pipe Jacking of Newington, CT; MON Landscaping of North Dartmouth, MA; Testa Demolition of Lynn, MA; and Thomas Drilling and Blasting of Spofford, NH.

Only one business — Garelick Farms — will be affected as a result of the construction, along with the MBTA Commuter Park and Ride. In both cases, their driveways will be moved to make room for the construction.

Work started on Aug. 25, 2003, and is scheduled to be completed by July 15, 2006.

“We’re pretty consistent with our schedule, which is more ambitious than the state’s,” said Navikonis. CEG

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