METHUEN — After years of planning, construction on the I-93 rotary in Methuen officially began this morning. A groundbreaking ceremony brought state and local officials, residents and business owners to the grassy area alongside Riverside Drive at the rotary's entrance, where a backhoe and a line of shovels waited.
The reconstruction project has been divided into four phases that will take place over the next four years, if everything happens on schedule. Mayor Stephen Zanni said he has been eager to kick off a project that he said will make the community safer and bring more businesses to Route 110.
"I have had businesses express interest in building here but they can't or won't make this commute as it is," he said. "It's all about doing something for our community and for the surrounding towns."
The project will transform the existing rotary into a partial cloverleaf interchange, with two smaller loops handling traffic as opposed to one large circle. MassDOT estimates the project will cost $66.4 million, paid with state and federal money. The biggest potential traffic problems will be on I-93, where the median will be removed and paved to allow lanes to shift. The breakdown lane near exit 46, normally open during rush hour, will also be closed.
Peggy Markos, whose family has owned and operated Royal House of Roast Beef for 25 years, said she is looking forward to the change, though she anticipates there will be a "bit of a bottleneck" once construction is truly underway.
"I think it will help open up this area a lot and I just hope it helps the businesses. I really think it will," she said.
Royal House is a short distance away on Lowell Street, and Markos said she came to the groundbreaking to show her support for the project coming to fruition, after hearing it talked over at her restaurant almost daily.