EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 9, 2013

Overnight work off I-93 drags on, snarls commute

Road closure frustrates commuters, delays buses

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — Bridge construction went overtime at a bad time yesterday.

Detours sent drivers off busy Route 111 at the peak of the morning commute and resulted in the rerouting of school buses.

Police and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation heard about it, receiving complaints, although not as many as they might have expected.

DOT officials are reviewing what happened with the contractor.

It won’t happen again today. While more bridge work will take place later this week, transportation officials don’t want a repeat of yesterday’s trouble.

Work is scheduled overnight — from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. — tonight, tomorrow and Friday.

“It clearly went longer than it should have,” DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said. “We’re taking steps so this doesn’t happen again.”

The work originally was scheduled overnight Dec. 26 and 27, but was postponed due to poor weather.

Crews are installing structural steel for the Interstate 93 south bridge over Route 111, which is closed during the work for safety reasons.

E.D. Swett Inc. of Concord is the general contractor on the $11.5 million project, slated for completion this fall.

The project is just a small, but very visible, piece of the $800 million I-93 widening from Salem to the I-293 interchange in Manchester.

Construction started a year ago. The work involves rebuilding southbound bridges over Routes 111 and 111A at Exit 3. It is the third of six projects for the Exit 3 area.

Boynton said Swett is a good contractor, who hasn’t caused problems for DOT.

DOT was reviewing yesterday’s trouble with the contractor.

Boynton said sometimes placing steel can pose challenges due to weather conditions or other factors.

“We don’t know all the details,” he said.

The delay was unexpected.

“This was not something that was planned,” he said. “It was unfortunate we had to detour traffic to Exits 2 and 4 during the commute.”

DOT had announced the work on Dec. 19, noting it would happen if weather allowed and said, “Additional closures are expected in the following weeks to complete the work.”

Windham police Capt. Mike Caron said the detours were in place until about 11 a.m.

That was six hours later than DOT had hoped.

Still, police received only a handful of complaints.

“We had a few complaints from people,” Caron said. “I would say it was a half dozen or less.”

School district business administrator Adam Steel said the school bus contractor rerouted buses.

“Only one or two buses had any type of delay,” Steel said.

DOT heard about the rush-hour detours.

“We had a couple of calls,” Boynton said.

Motorists were concerned that the detours won’t be there again this morning, which Boynton stressed they won’t.