EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

August 29, 2013

Editorial: Let’s get moving on rotary reconstruction

State transportation officials don’t seem to have any good explanation for the delay in reconstructing one of the region’s most dangerous intersections. Let’s hope the delay doesn’t cost drivers anything more than lost commuting time.

Work on rebuilding the Interstate 93 rotary in West Methuen was originally slated to begin this fall. But the project has fallen behind schedule and is now over-budget. The state Department of Transportation just sent out requests for bids on Aug. 17, so there is no chance of work beginning this year. The contractor will not be selected until mid-November. Construction is now scheduled to start in April 2014 and will take three years to complete.

The cost estimate for the project has increased from $70 million to $77.8 million.

DOT spokesman Mike Verseckes told reporter Brian Messenger that the project schedule was delayed when designers decided to add “metallized steel beams” under the I-93 bridge to help reinforce the structure and protect it from corrosion.

“There were some last-minute additions,” said Verseckes. “It’s not the kind of thing we want rushed out the door.”

A change in one detail shouldn’t be enough to delay an entire project of this scope.

And the work is needed. According the DOT, the rotary has an accident rate that is 7.2 times greater than the state average. From 2007 to 2009, the area around the rotary saw 650 accidents, more than double the number of crashes at any other location in the area. The approaches to the rotary often operate at a “failing” level of service during peak morning and afternoon rush hours.

Studies first began to cite the need to rebuild the intersection in 2001. The state began considering redesigns in 2008.

The state plans to replace the rotary that links I-93 with Routes 110 and 113 with a partial cloverleaf design that will include new traffic signals and access ramps. The redesigned intersection should improve safety and traffic flow. State and federal funds will pay for the project with federal taxpayers footing 80 percent of the bill.

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