Union Leader: I-93 expansion moves forward in Windham as funding concerns are rising
WINDHAM — During a tour of the Interstate 93 expansion project surrounding Exit 3 on Monday afternoon, state transportation officials shared highlights of construction progress in the state's southern tier.
To date, construction crews have completed or begun work on $350 million in expansions and infrastructure repairs, representing about 60 percent of the overall project, said project manager Peter Stamnas.
Stamnas said it would take another $250 million to complete the widening of the 20-mile stretch of highway.
Just several weeks after writing a letter to House leadership urging support of the federal Highway Trust Fund, 2nd District Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., voiced concern over the expansion's current state of funding. Kuster, who joined state Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement and New Hampshire State Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairs State Sen. Jim Rausch and Rep. Candace Bouchard, among others, on Monday's tour, noted that the Highway Trust Fund is scheduled to drop below a critical funding threshold in June, which could potentially delay the project.
"It's definitely not going to be an efficient plan if we need to stop and start again," Kuster said.
State officials hope that Senate Bill 367 will pass before the House before that happens. Rausch sponsored the bill, which he said would raise an estimated $32 million towards the interstate project.
The state Senate approved the bill, which would raise state gas taxes by about 4.2 cents per gallon, late last month.
Clement said money from the gas tax bill, combined with Garvey Bond funds, would be enough to complete the project.
During Monday's tour, Kuster, Clement and project officials boarded a bus bound for the future southbound stretch of Interstate 93 in Windham, over the current Route 111.
Blasting around the Exit 3 area was well underway, Stamnas noted, as is work on the future Route 111, located farther away from Cobbetts Pond.
"Part of the goal is to improve water quality as well as traffic flow," he added.
Once completed, the new Route 111 will be located farther south, with the current road turned into a cul-de-sac.
"We're trying to do as much work outside traffic as possible," he said.
Rolling roadblocks will become the norm for a good part of the coming two months as crews work to remove exposed ledge along the future Exit 3 northbound off ramp.
DOT officials worked closely with businesses located along the corridor, notifying them well in advance of the blasts. Crews are processing gravel onsite to help curb costs.
The new I-93 southbound lanes are expected to open in late summer or early autumn.
From there, ramp work along Pelham Road and bridge repairs must be completed before the northbound lane can be re-routed. Stamnas said the goal is to shift the northbound lanes in late 2015.
"That should be the last major shift for the Exit 3 area," he added. "Which will allow us to construct the new Route 111A."
Bypassing any funding glitches, state officials said the plan is to have three lanes completed in each direction, from Exit 3 to the Massachusetts state line, by the end of 2015.