I-295 north in Topsham reopens

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TOPSHAM — A 17-mile stretch of Interstate 295 North from Topsham to Gardiner reopened on Monday afternoon, 20 days ahead of schedule following a major road rehabilitation project.

The seven-week project, handled by Pike Industries for the Maine Department of Transportation, comprised the complete “rubblization” of the road’s two lanes, as well as the laying of 200,000 tons of new asphalt, replacement of 60,000 feet of guardrail and rehabilitation of six bridges.

The southbound lanes of I-295, which served as an alternate route for northbound traffic, remained closed until Wednesday while they were returned to their original state for normal traffic flow. Southbound traffic had been rerouted to I-95 and Route 201.

Because Pike was so early in reopening I-295 North before the Aug. 23 target date, the company earns the maximum financial incentive of $2 million, according to DOT Highway Program Manager Brad Foley. If Pike had finished after Aug. 23 it would have incurred a financial penalty.

Crews will continue over the next month to install pave ramps and guardrails and to loam and seed the temporary crossovers that brought northbound traffic to the southbound lanes of I-295. The remaining work may cause partial ramp closures at night and occasional lane closures throughout the day.

The $35.3 million project was the first Maine transportation project this year to be funded completely by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While this summer saw one of the rainiest construction seasons on record, Pike’s crews and subcontractors worked every day of the week. Two jet dryers were used to help move work along during breaks in the weather.

“It was a little discouraging early in the season to see all that rain,” Foley said. “And the good news is that they could do a lot of work in the rain. What we were hopeful for was that the rain would stop, so that they could do paving, because they can’t do paving in the rain.”

While the rain fell the crews handled earthwork-related aspects of the project, Foley said.

Although there were some complaints from drivers this year, as there were last year, about issues like the speed of traffic, the number of trucks and congestion, he noted, “all in all reports are that traffic was fairly smooth out there.”

Pike installed a temporary asphalt plant adjacent to I-295 in Richmond in order to minimize truck travel and reduce fuel use. About 67,000 tons of hot mix asphalt – more than half the amount used for the whole project – were supplied by the plant, which also recycled all the waste concrete through building up new shoulders and producing new asphalt.

“We are extremely pleased at how quickly and effectively the road was completed to minimize the impact on motorists and local residents,” said DOT Commissioner David Cole. “It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all involved that it was able to be finished early given the rainy construction season.”

Log onto mainedot.gov for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.