I-89 bridge work to alter traffic patterns

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-10-2022 10:25 AM

LEBANON — The project to rebuild two bridges on Interstate 89 between Lebanon and Hartford will begin to alter traffic patterns later this month.

Jeffrey Potter, an engineer with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT), said it will be the first impacts on motorists since construction began in September 2020.

“(Construction) has been underway for quite a while now, though there has not been much to see for the traveling public,” Potter said. “That is about to change.”

Next Monday, construction crews with the Bow, N.H.-based firm R.S. Audley will begin the next phase of the five-year, $43.8 million project to rehabilitate and upgrade a pair of spans across the Connecticut River.

From May 16 to 27, workers will start erecting structural steel for a median bridge, which will accommodate bridge traffic while the crews rehabilitate the existing structures.

The initial work will have “minimal impact on traffic,” according to Potter, though daytime travelers should anticipate lane closures.

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During the course of the two weeks, there will be between two to four overnight closures on the northbound bridge, Potter noted.

These closures, the dates of which have not been determined, will occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Northbound traffic will be detoured onto Exit 20 in West Lebanon and directed into Hartford where travelers can follow Route 5 to Interstate 91 and rejoin northbound I-89 at the interchange.

The detour is about 2.5 miles and an estimated travel time of 10 minutes, according to MapQuest.

Potter said these overnight closures will enable the crews to work from the northbound side to erect the steel structure for the median bridge.

Once the median bridge is installed, southbound traffic will be diverted temporarily onto the new lanes so workers can replace the deck and superstructure of the southbound bridge.

Once the southbound bridge is rehabilitated, crews will turn their attention to the northbound bridge.

The southbound bridge will reopen to traffic and northbound traffic will be diverted to the median bridge.

The completed project will create a single bridge with two-directional traffic with the median bridge connecting the northbound and southbound sides.

The completed bridge will be wider to improve overall safety, including wider shoulders and auxiliary lanes to facilitate traffic flow around the ramp exits.

“The purpose of this project is twofold,” according to a 2017 project report from the NHDOT. “The first and most important goal is to restore the bridges to a ‘State of Good Repair.’

“The second goal is to improve the safety for vehicles crossing the structures while also improving traffic flow and operations.”

According to the report, traffic on the bridge is currently too congested to safely accommodate vehicles merging on and off the interchange ramps located at both ends of the bridges.

The existing shoulders are also too narrow to provide a safe refuge to disabled vehicles.

The bridges are considered “critically important to the connectivity, economy and quality of life in both New Hampshire and Vermont.” They carry approximately 41,000 vehicles per day and provide communities with essential access to jobs, amenities, medical care and other “indispensable services,” according to the project report.

Constructed in 1966, the bridges are categorized as “Red List” priorities due to the severity of their deterioration and structural deficiencies.

Neither bridge has received major rehabilitation since their opening and currently show “extensive corrosion” and “severe signs of distress,” according to the 2017 transportation report.

Potter said to expect significant traffic impacts periodically during this phase of construction, including on the Vermont end of the bridges.

The project is scheduled to complete its work in September 2025, according to Potter, who said the COVID-19 pandemic did not result in construction work delays.

Patrick Adrian can be reached at pfadrian25@gmail.com.

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