LONDONDERRY — Improvements to the Exit 5 area of Interstate 93 have reached the halfway point, state transportation officials said this week.
It's been a year and a half since the state Department of Transportation selected a contractor to complete extensive improvements to the busy highway segment and surrounding infrastructure.
Candia's Severino Trucking Company was awarded the contract in early February of last year.
The project marks the state's first time using GARVEE bonds, which are backed by future highway funds due to the state.
GARVEE bonds, an acronym for “Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles,” can only be used on contracts that pass Federal Highway Administration approval, and, as in the case of Exit 5, offer an alternative for projects that would otherwise be stalled by the state's attempts to obtain more permanent financing.
During Wednesday night's Planning Board meeting, project officials offered the latest update on the long-awaited project.
Jay Levine, corridor supervisor for I-93, said the Exit 5 portion of the widening project is “about a month ahead of schedule,” as are improvements to nearby Route 28.”
This past season's mild winter allowed workers to be onsite through the colder months, Levine noted.
“A lot of good things are happening here,” he added.
Last year, workers completed Phase I of a bridge widening over Route 28, with emphasis this year on completing Phase II, southbound widening.
“We're pretty darn close to switching the course of traffic near Exit 5,” Levine added, noting that he expects the process to commence later this month over the course of two days.
Construction on Exit 5 began in 2007, with the addition of a new Park and Ride facility, a bus maintenance facility and updated on- and off-ramps.
Once completed, the Exit 5 work is expected to cost the state $37 million.
Project manager Peter Stamnas said the most recent cost estimates for the interstate's complete widening is upward of $610 million. To date, $279 million in construction has been completed.
Stamnas said the state recently issued $115 million in bonds to keep construction moving, though the final phase of the project, which covers work from Exit 3 to the I-293 split in Manchester, remains unfunded, with the exception of Exit 5.
“If no funding comes about, we'd have three lanes going to Exit 3 by 2015,” Stamnas said. “That would be narrowed down to two lanes by Exit 4, with lengthened ramps and acceleration lanes around Exit 5 and Route 28.”
He said he expects the Exit 5 improvements to be completed by 2014, if not earlier.
The controversial Exit 4A project isn't included in the state's plans at this time, state officials noted, with funding already stretched thin as it is.
“The DOT is not involved with any engineering for Exit 4A,” Stamnas said.
During this week's meeting, several local board members expressed concerns for safety along Route 28 and Route 102, with board member Dana Coons noting the need for median strips along those roads.
Coons said a motorist making an illegal left turn on Route 102 recently damaged his own vehicle, something the presence of median strips could have prevented, he said.
The board agreed to discuss safety measures in greater detail at a future meeting.
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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.