MERIDEN — A $300 million plan to improve the convoluted traffic triangle at the junction of interstates 691, 91 and Route 15 has been divided into three phases.
After completing its design study, state Department of Transportation engineers split the project into phases. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring.
The project aims to provide a safer drive through the three arteries with two-lane connections between all major roadways, and separate the weaving connections between I-91, I-691, Route 15 and East Main Street. It also aims to address accidents, providing adequate acceleration, deceleration, and spacing between traffic movements.
The project has been on the state’s priority list for several years because of numerous merging accidents and traffic backups caused by the poor flow from highway to highway.
“Pre-COVID-19 we were seeing upwards of 200,000 people travel through our city on these highways surrounding us each day,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said at a press conference Monday. “So, we know the need for investment in infrastructure. It was something city officials have talked about… It’s remarkable to see it’s coming to fruition.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined Scarpati and state Department of Transportation officials and workers to pitch the proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package now in the U.S. Senate during Monday’s press event at the Bee Street commuter lot. The federal funding will ensure all phases of the Meriden highway project are completed on time, Scarpati said.
The first phase, estimated to cost $45 million, includes making a two-lane connection eastbound from I-691 to I-91 north. It is estimated to take two years. The project involves widening the existing ramp from I-691 east to I-91 north to two lanes and widening I-91 north to accommodate an auxiliary lane from this interchange to the Middletown rest area.
The southbound phase is estimated to cost $145 million and begin in 2025. It is estimated to take four years to complete, but the DOT is trying to accelerate the timeline.
The project involves widening I-91 south to provide an auxiliary lane from the vicinity of the Middletown rest area to the I-691 west exit, widening the I-91 southbound off-ramp to I-691 west to two lanes, and widening the I-691 eastbound off-ramp to Route 15 south to two lanes. Plans call for relocating the exit from I-91 southbound to Route 15 southbound approximately a half-mile south of its present location. The project would also provide a two-lane ramp from Route 15 southbound to I-91 southbound. Additional improvements include paving of I-91 south to the Wallingford town line.
The northbound phase is scheduled to begin in spring 2025 and is estimated to cost $110 million. Plans call for replacing the existing ramp connection from I-91 north to Route 15 north (Exit 17) with a new two-lane off-ramp from the existing off-ramp to East Main Street (Exit 16). This will require widening the Exit 16 off-ramp to two lanes to accommodate the new I-91 northbound to Route 15 northbound connection and the exit to East Main Street.
Plans also call for relocating the connection from Route 15 north to I-91 north approximately three-quarters of a mile south of its present location and widen the existing off-ramp from Route 15 north to I-691 westbound to two lanes. Additional improvements include paving I-91 northbound to the Wallingford town line. It is estimated to take four years but the DOT is working to expedite the timeline, officials said.
“We would expect that the delays and disruption will be typical and expected of a construction project of this magnitude,” said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick. “The delays and disruption may be less than normal since many of the ramps are being relocated allowing for ‘off-line’ work to be accomplished without impacting the existing traffic patterns.”
DOT officials said Monday they will utilize all environmental mitigation strategies to protect surrounding water sources.
A list of those strategies can be viewed at https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOT/documents/dpolicy/pamphlets/ENVONSITWEBpdf.pdf?la=en&hash=A958D2AD35EE98572F4B35D83715F9BF.
“It’s a green effort,” Blumenthal said. “The environmental review is going to be quick and simple. In fact, anyone who has sat in traffic you know the emissions coming out. This project is a classically green project, to eliminate traffic, eliminate some of the choke points, stop the emissions and have fewer accidents.”