WALLINGFORD—The state Department of Transportation is developing plans to relocate the Route 15 northbound exit 65 on-ramp to improve safety on the Wilbur Cross Parkway and decrease traffic congestion on River Road and Route 150.
The $4 million project will be 90 percent federally funded. The other 10 percent will be covered by state funds, said Susan Libatiquie, DOT project manager.
Work is not slated to start until spring 2016, which has at least one town official complaining that an interim project to alleviate traffic congestion would have been a better option.
As part of the redesign announced late last week by the state, the current northbound exit 65 on-ramp will be closed and replaced by an on-ramp immediately east of the northern bridge parapet carrying Route 150 over Route 15. The ramp will be aligned parallel to and between Route 15 and Community Lake Park, Libatiquie said.
To build a new entrance lane for the new ramp, portions of River Road and Route 150 will be widened and traffic signals will be added.
Discussions about replacing the entrance ramp began at least six years ago because of a high accident rate on the ramp, said Town Engineer John Thompson. There are about 80 accidents annually on and around the entrance ramp.
The ramp is short, and drivers must wait at a stop sign to enter the parkway and then rapidly accelerate to reach proper speeds. The new design allows for a longer ramp that will give drivers more time to accelerate, Thompson said.
The town initially pitched a $400,000 project to the state several years ago. That plan was rejected and a much bigger plan with an $8 million price tag was proposed by the state, Thompson said. The current plan is a scaled down version of the $8 million proposal.
The initial plan from the state called for the removal of both the on and off-ramp at exit 65, DOT officials said. Instead of a traditional ramp, plans were to build a tunnel through existing embankments. With both the on and off-ramp closed, traffic would have had to be diverted to exit 64, creating more costs and delays.
According to the state DOT, the project’s final design will be complete in March 2015, with construction starting in spring 2016.
The time it’s taken to get the project underway is a concern, Thompson said.
“I always believed there were other things we could have done that were less costly,” he said.
Thompson said there could have been an interim project to lessen traffic congestion.
“We’re still talking three years away,” he said. “And the congestion is there every single afternoon.”
A press release from the state DOT said a public informational meeting will be conducted upon the completion of the preliminary design. Those interested in receiving information on the project can contact Tim Wilson, the state DOT’s manager of highway design, at (860) 594-3189.