McCourt Construction at work on the 4-mi. (6.4 km) stretch from Dedham to Needham along the Interstate 95 corridor.
North on Route 95, just west of Boston, near Exit 17B, the lanes narrow and merge with a fleet of heavy iron earthmovers at the ready.
The final bridge reconstruction and roadway widening project for the Interstate 95/93 transportation improvement project, also known as the “Add-a-Lane” Project will begin later this year. It was advertised in Sept. 2013 and, at its conclusion, will mark the end of years of work along the I-95 (Rte. 128) corridor, improving miles of highway in and out of Boston.
“McCourt Construction is currently working on the four-mile stretch from Dedham to Needham along the Interstate 95 corridor,” said Michael Verseckes of MassDOT. “This work has been ongoing through winter. The remainder of the work is set to begin later, likely in fall. We will have a contractor by late-June for the final segment.”
According to Verseckes, the final job to widen this much-traveled Interstate system at the exit that goes into Needham from the highway will cost an estimated $165 million.
According to MassDOT, the contract calls for the widening of the Interstate (which is Route 128) with a new 12-ft. (3.6 m) lane of traffic and a 10-ft. (3 m) shoulder in both directions, the building of new interchange ramps and a “signalized” intersection at Kendrick Street, along with the building of two new collector-distributor roads between Kendrick and Highland Avenue.
In addition, Highland Avenue and its existing interchange ramps will be modified, along with modifying the existing Route 9 interchange. This second highway — also extremely busy with commuter traffic from the suburbs outside of Boston into the heart of the city — will benefit from two additional “signalized” intersections along Route 9, the construction of four permanent bridges and, most importantly, the widening of the Interstate 95 bridge over Central Avenue.
Work will be completed with the demolition of an unused MBTA railroad bridge over the existing Interstate. According to Verseckes and the DOT, this massive project includes the demo of existing bridges and superstructures, construction of new piers, abutments and associated approach slab and roadway work. The bridge carrying Highland Avenue over Interstate 95; Kendrick Street over Interstate 95 (which also is Rte. 128); and Interstate 95 over Route 9 in the towns of Needham and Wellesley will all be part of the project.
MassDOT said the work includes construction of a new Bridge No.N-04-037, which carries Ramp K-1 over Ramp K-2 at the new Kendrick Street interchange.
“The proposed Highland Avenue Bridge over I-95 is a three-span structure consisting of a reinforced concrete deck slab supported by continuous steel plate girders with concrete cantilever abutments and concrete column bent piers on spread footings,” said Verseckes. “The proposed Kendrick Street Bridge over I-95 is a two-span structure consisting of a reinforced concrete deck slab supported by continuous steel plate girders with concrete cantilever abutments and a concrete column bent pier on spread footings.”
According to DOT, the work also consists of full depth widening of the Interstate 95 (Route 128) main line at the median of the existing highway; an addition of one travel lane and shoulder north and southbound from about 5,000 ft. (1,524 m) north of the Needham Branch Railroad Bridge in Needham to about 1,000 ft. (3,04.8 m) north of busy Route 9 in Wellesley.
Residents Have Concerns
While this lane-widening project is eventually going to help open up traffic concerns in the Needham-Wellesley area with a goal of making traffic safer, Needham residents have attended a series of meetings with DOT officials since 2012.
They are concerned how blocking and merging lanes will actually increase traffic in their neighborhoods, by filtering cars via restricted lane detours and other issues.
MassDOT assured residents that while traffic must be diverted and rerouted while the work goes on, the project will actually widen both sides of the Interstate while restoring the breakdown traffic lane to its original uses.
A total of five bridges in the Needham region will be improved and the new interchange along Kendrick Street will improve signal traffic.
MassDOT has provided insight into the project for concerned residents who were able to hear from featured experts such as design project manager Larry Cash, along with Darren Conboy, a design consultant with Jacobs Engineering who is overseeing the design phase of the $165 million work.
According to Cash, approximately a staggering 175,000 vehicles per day travel the highway in this region up and down Interstate 95 near Exits 17, 18 and 19 which give access to Needham and Wellesley. The scope of the project, Cash said, expands from the Route 9 interchange in Wellesley south, including Highland Avenue (off Exit 19) and the Kendrick Street bridges in Needham.
The work extends to the railroad bridge set for demolition, which is just north of the Great Plain Avenue, or Exit 18.
According to Cash and MassDOT, once contractors have bid and construction has begun, the work may take up to five years to complete.
Principal in the concerns of Needham residents is the work that may be done off the Interstate at the new Kendrick Street interchange.
According to Verseckes, new ramps at the Kendrick Street bridge will let northbound traffic on Route 128 exit onto Kendrick Street in a much better pattern, preventing left turns off the ramp into the residential areas and shortening access on and off the Interstate.
Those new collector/distributor roads will be built to let cars enter and exit the highway between Highland Avenue and Kendrick Street on a side roadway without impacting through traffic.
Several additional ramps, like the one heading east on Kendrick Street (from the residential area) will make entering southbound Interstate 95 much smoother. Noise barriers along the highway on both avenues will alleviate construction sounds of the heavy iron throughout the process.
“With the new access point at Kendrick Street, a lot of that traffic will be reduced significantly,” said Cash.
At the same meeting, Conboy added that traffic along Highland Avenue would not be tied up as it is at present. He added that the new Kendrick Street interchange would help mitigate the growth in the nearby New England Business Center.
“Part of the reason for this was so that there is accommodation for 2.5 million feet of additional development in those office park areas, and the need to improve access was part of the original commitment in the environmental impact report and study that was done in the 1990s,” said Conboy, according to Needham Patch reports.
Besides the major highway and side street work to help vehicle traffic with the five new ramps, there will be new sidewalks and new travel lanes for bicycle traffic and pedestrians.
The widening of the Highland Avenue bridge — with three 11-ft. (3.3 m) travel lanes, in addition to a 5-ft. (1.5 m) bike lane and sidewalk in each direction — will also see a 2-ft. (.6 m) buffer built between car and bike lanes.
The removal of the shutdown railroad bridge between Kendrick and Great Plain Avenue in Needham, no longer used by the MBTA, will only happen, Conboy said, if the MBTA decides not to extend the MBTA’s Green Line train system between Needham and Newton.
Because the MBTA has not ruled on future bridge use at this time, restoring the bridge is not part of the Add-a-Lane Project. But MassDOT would be responsible for bridge restoration once any future use is decided.
(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.) CEG
Interstate 95/93 transportation improvement project includes the following improvements:
• Full depth box widening at the outside edges of the existing roadway
• Retaining wall construction
• Timing adjustments and new interconnections with three existing signalized intersections
• Water main relocation
• Gas main
• Communications and telephone relocations
• Utility pole relocations
• Installing overhead sign supports and highway guide signs
• Relocating existing and installing new ITS equipment
• Pavement milling
• Hot mix asphalt overlay
• Storm water detention basins
• Water quality swales
• Drainage modifications
• Wetlands mitigation
• Removing and resetting granite edging
• Replacing highway guardrail
• Pavement markings
• Installation of new median barrier
• Sound walls