By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — It will be enough to make your head spin — just watch where you’re going.
Some travelers heading out of town tomorrow for the long holiday weekend may find themselves doing a double take near Exit 2 on Interstate 93.
That’s because the traffic pattern will radically change as part of the I-93 widening project.
A temporary southbound on-ramp is scheduled to open tomorrow afternoon at the Exit 2 interchange with Pelham Road and I-93, according to Jay Levine, I-93 corridor supervisor with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
That means motorists traveling east on Pelham Road must stay in the right lane before taking the on-ramp, Levine said. Drivers traveling west must stay in the left lane.
This may not sound confusing to those who don’t travel in that area.
But for those who do, the traffic pattern is the opposite of what they are accustomed to, Levine said.
“I think there’s going to be learning curve,” he said yesterday.
There will road signs and message boards directing motorists to stay or right, he said.
The change could be delayed until next week if the weather doesn’t cooperate tomorrow, but there’s no rain in the forecast, Levine said.
DOT workers must stripe the road that morning before the on-ramp opens at about 1 or 2 p.m., he said.
Anyone who has recently traveled through the busy construction zone probably noticed the new on-ramp as they passed.
The ramp is now blocked off with orange barrels and cones. Red-and-white “Do not enter” signs are posted at the entrance.
“By opening this ramp up, we are trying to convert into a diamond interchange,” Levine said.
It was previously a cloverleaf, Levine said.
It will be easier to merge onto the highway, he said. What is now two lanes will become three in about three weeks.
The on-ramp is adjacent to the off-ramp, which may confuse some drivers for at least week, according to Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.
He said a police officer will be stationed there this weekend to make sure no one takes a potentially dangerous turn.
“We want to make sure people don’t go up the wrong ramp,” Patten said. “We are going to do everything we can to prevent a major problem.”
Even though it’s expected to be a busy travel weekend, Levine said it should not have a major impact on traffic flow off Exit 2 because it’s a commercial area and many businesses will be closed. It’s posted at 30 mph.
“Hopefully, people will take it slow,” Patten said. “Motorists will have to pay extra attention in that area.”
But there may be some nighttime backups down the street near Canobie Lake Park, Levine said. The park, holding its annual Screemfest event, is open until 11 p.m. tomorrow through Sunday.
Otherwise, Levine, state and local police don’t expect any major problems — as long as motorists drive with caution.
State police Sgt. Paul Hunt said extra patrols will be out on I-93 because it’s a holiday weekend.
But a state trooper won’t be deployed in the Exit 2 construction area because drivers may take their eyes off the highway, Hunt said.
“We don’t want to be a distraction,” he said.
The work at Exit 2, a $41 million project being completed by George R. Cairns & Sons of Windham, is scheduled to conclude in 2015.