State DOT Responds To Complaint Over Ramp Closures
As recently as this week, state DOT crews have closed Interstate 84 off- or on-ramps as road work is completed. But that work may not always involve the ramp, frustrating at least one Newtown Bee reader who wrote in for — and is receiving a response — following an inquiry from the newspaper.
On September 14, State Rep Mitch Bolinsky dispatched the latest in a volume of advisories sharing that the Connecticut Department of Transportation was planning “yet another nighttime closure of the westbound Interstate-84, Exit 9 ramps.
“I apologize for the late notice, but DOT was a bit tardy getting this information to my office,” Bolinsky stated.
This scheduled five-night closure of the I-84 westbound Exit 9 on- and off-ramps in Newtown was scheduled to conclude after The Newtown Bee’s print edition went to press September 17. Bolinsky said the collateral work plan involved nighttime milling and resurfacing. During that period, the westbound ramps were supposed to be closed each night from 8 pm until 5 am the following morning.
“While these and multiple previous closures and related detours are necessary to facilitate ongoing construction and safety improvement activities, they have been nonetheless frustrating and confusing to residents and commuters. In late August, Newtown resident Jill Previs wrote to The Newtown Bee about it, stating, “Here we go again... another summer coming to a close and again the RT 84 paving project in Newtown still has not been completed.”
Previs noted that in 2019, “DOT work on Route 84 Exit 9-10 Eastbound... started in May with paving the highway, tearing the highway up, inserting cement rectangles, signs were put up warning of dates for ramp closures, dates came and went, signs were removed, signs reappeared with new dates, dates came and went and to date ramps still have not been paved. Then came winter.”
Fast forwarding to 2020, Previs noted the same routine was playing out on Route 84 Exit 9-10 westbound.
“Started in May with tearing up the highway and inserting cement rectangles,” she noted. “The notification signs are a joke. First they alerted us to days in May when the ramp would be closed. Those were changed several times then disappeared. Now they have reappeared, notifying us of ramp work, but again nothing happens. No work is done. The ramp has not been touched in six months, but we have had plenty of notifications arrive and pass on the signs.”
One of Previs’ main concerns beyond the inconvenience, is purely economical.
“We are paying for this inefficient waste of material, time, and manpower,” Previs said of herself and fellow state taxpayers. “I could have arranged a better plan and gotten it done before the plants closed for winter. This has been a bad joke at the expense of the taxpayers. Maybe we all need to alert the media to get this out in the public eye.”
Acting on the reader’s behalf, The Newtown Bee reached out and received a return call and follow-up memo from DOT communications representative Kevin Nursick. On his call, Nursick explained that to ensure maximum safety of DOT and contract crews working on the highway — especially at night — that it is common practice to close and detour traffic away from various on and off ramps that may connect to areas where highway work is progressing.
He said a number of other factors could cause advisories sent with the best of intentions and planning to suddenly change. Changes could be prompted by inclement weather or weather forecasts, the re-deployment of intended crews to other projects for myriad reasons, or a shortage of personnel scheduled for planned work locations.
In his follow-up, Nursick noted that the current I-84 work — identified as Project 96-200 in Newtown — started on January 25, 2019 with an original completion date of November 4, 2020.
“The original scope of work is rehabilitating 12 bridge structures, performing full depth concrete roadway repairs, metal beam rail installation and upgrades, drainage revisions, and milling and paving approximately nine miles of interstate roadway on I-84 [eastbound] and [westbound] between exits 9 and 10,” the DOT rep said.
“There are required lane closures and ramp closures to ensure the public safety during multiple construction operations,” he continued.
“Sometimes it appears that no work was performed after a nighttime ramp closure. This is due to the fact that the ramp was closed to facilitate nighttime paving on I-84 mainline,” Nursick wrote. “The ramp was closed just for safety purposes, and to the public would look like no work was performed the next day. Other construction operations require ramp closures to complete drainage, roadway repairs, or crossings. There have been many times that rain, equipment failures, and unforeseen work extend, delay, or cancel these closures.”
Nursick said this particular project, which is expected to cost around $30 million when fully completed, has experienced a significant amount of additional work due to deteriorated bridge joints that were not discovered until after the milling was completed.
“There is also extensive additional substructure bridge work being performed on structures over town roadways,” he added. “The additional work has extended the original duration of this project, [and now] the anticipated completion date is July of 2021.”
“As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have about this construction project or any other state government matter,” Bolinsky said. The representative can be contacted at cthousegop.com/bolinsky/contact-me.