The contractor for the Arrigoni Bridge reconstruction project expects to change the traffic pattern on the bridge before the end of the year as work on the northbound lanes of the span is completed.
That transition has some local officials worried about the impact on businesses on both sides of the Connecticut River, as well as on how it will impact emergency response situations.
A representative for the contractor reported during a meeting on the bridge project Friday morning that work on the two northbound lanes should be ending soon, allowing workers to reopen those lanes and then close down the southbound lanes in order to begin work on that side of the bridge.
Susan Bransfield, first selectman of Portland, said the change could flummox some commuters who have grown used to the current traffic pattern.
“That’s going to be a big change. You know how drivers are, we get used to what you teach us and change like this could be a big deal.”
Bransfield also questioned whether the lane shifts would further affect businesses on her side of the river.
“Businesses are really beginning to feel the impact of this construction,” she said.
Larry McHugh, president of the Greater Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the meeting, said Middletown businesses are also being impacted by the work because many commuters who might stop at businesses in the downtown are bypassing the area altogether to avoid traffic delays.
He added, however, that the impact is unavoidable and that the state’s Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the bridge work, is not to blame.
Emergency services officials also said they’re concerned about how the change could affect emergency response efforts for accidents that occur on the bridge, because the lane closures would limit to one the number of lanes that will come into the Middletown side of the bridge from Portland.
A DOT official during the meeting reported that the agency will not allow a left-turn lane from Washington Street onto Route 9 North, as some local officials had requested to ease congestion downtown during peak traffic hours. The official said doing so would make dangerous intersections on Route 9 south of the city even more dangerous. One of those intersections was part of a report published today on some of the most dangerous intersections on state roads.
Kenneth E. Fargnoli, the DOT engineer coordinating the bridge project, said the project is still about two weeks behind schedule, but that the delay would not affect the overall schedule for the project. The bridge work, he added, is still scheduled to be completed in November of 2012.