On Friday morning, drivers will get on a new ramp to exit from Interstate 95 southbound to Interstate 91 northbound. The old route ran over what was left of the old Quinnipiac bridge, and workers will start sending it to the landfill the same day.
Vladimir Kaminsky, supervising engineer for the state Department of Transportation, described the new entry ramp: “This allows us to dismantle the old connection and build a temporary connection for I-95 south to I-91 north,” he said. While it’s temporary, the ramp will last about a year, he said.
Starting Friday, “We will dismantle, demolish the last piece of the Q bridge and it will be history,” Kaminsky said.
Drivers in the New Haven area remember that, not long ago, Exits 48 and 47 — leading to I-91 and Route 34, respectively — left I-95 southbound as one ramp from just beyond the Q bridge and then split. Then a separate ramp to Route 34 opened.
There will again be a single ramp to Exits 47 and 48, but the split will be marked by a large I-91 shield painted on the roadway, a device used in other areas but not in Connecticut until now, said John Dunham, assistant district engineer for the New Haven Harbor Crossing project.
Because the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge is higher than the old, the new connection will go downhill at a 7-percent grade to meet with the I-91 bridge over Chapel Street, Kaminsky said. Late last week, the dirt and gravel roadway looked like a hill children would use for winter sledding.
Kaminsky assured that it will be paved by Sept. 19. However, “It’s going to be a bit of a steep grade,” Dunham said, asking that people use care in making the drive to Interstate 91. The permanent ramp, to open in 2015, won’t be as steep, however.
This week’s traffic shift will be one of three in the next 13 months: Next April, there will be a new ramp to connect I-95 north to I-91 north, and in October 2015 there will be “a new alignment” from I-91 south to I-95 south, Kaminsky said.
Meanwhile, work continues on the second half of the new Q bridge, which will carry southbound traffic. The first half (the Pearl Harbor Memorial will actually be two side-by-side bridges) is now carrying traffic both north and south. Once the southbound bridge is finished in 2015, there will be five lanes of traffic in each direction, with full shoulders.
Standing on the spot where traffic will move off the Q bridge toward downtown and north, Kaminsky said, “This is the heart of the interchange and this is why we’re on a very aggressive schedule.” He and Dunham said the contractors, O&G Industries/Tutor Perini Joint Venture on the interchange and Walsh Construction/PCL Joint Venture on the bridge, have worked well with the DOT.
According to the DOT’s New Haven office, the bridge contracts total $554 million and the interchange is costing $453.7 million.
“I think generally we’re very pleased with the progress on the job, and the contractors are working very cooperatively, and the traffic shifts are on schedule,” Dunham said. “We can’t ask for anything other than that.”
He did ask that drivers follow posted speed limits and pay attention to new overhead and electronic signs guiding them to the correct lanes.
Specifically, drivers will find these lane closures and detours this week:
The Exit 48 off-ramp from I-95 south to I-91 and the off-ramp to Hamilton Avenue will be closed from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday, with traffic detoured to Long Wharf (Exit 46). The closings will be repeated Thursday night into Friday morning.
There also will be lane closures Thursday, on I-95 southbound between Exits 48 and 47 from 6 to 10 p.m.; between Exit 51 and the Woodward Avenue on-ramp from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday; and between the Woodward Avenue on-ramp and Exit 47 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday.
More information, including a video showing the new I-91 ramp before and after the new one opens, can be found at www.i95newhaven.com.