YARMOUTH — A newly designed interchange on Interstate 295 was closed Sunday to enhance safety on its tight curve, but officials insist the ramp is safe.
The northbound off-ramp at Exit 15 was closed for several hours Sunday, Sept. 16, while construction crews treated the surface for better traction, said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation.
Exit 15 was the site of a four-month, $6.1 million project to create a new, northbound on-ramp. In the process, its accompanying off-ramp was redesigned. By all accounts, the curve is much tighter, but it still meets state and federal safety standards, Talbot said.
The surface treatment, which is basically another layer of asphalt with a special mixture of aggregate, makes the pavement “extra grippy” and buys a little leeway for drivers who are caught unaware by the steepness of the curve, Talbot said.
The ramp was slated for the surface treatment during construction earlier this year, but the mixture didn’t adhere well when construction workers paved a test strip onto the shoulder, so the work was deferred, Talbot said.
In addition to the enhanced pavement, a series of three solar-powered blinking yellow signs alert drivers to the potential danger.
Yarmouth Police Department Lt. Dean Perry said there have been no accidents at the new ramp or at the ongoing construction on nearby U.S. Route 1.
Perry said he has doesn’t see any issues with the ramp, which curves steeply between a rock ledge and shallow pool of water. Even though the turn is tighter, Perry said it is ultimately safer due to a lengthened turning lane that was included during the redesign.
“The way it was before, you came off the highway at highway speed and ran right into the loop,” he said. “Now you have the ability to move right and reduce speed without interrupting the traffic flow on the highway, which I think has made a huge difference.”
The ramp, which is three-tenths of a mile long, also provides plenty of time to see the flashing lights and prepare for the upcoming curve, Perry said.
“They’ve done a great job with it optically,” he said of the design.
Road projects are constructed by private contractors, but DOT engineers are on site at each project to ensure that the work meets safety standards, Talbot said.
The $6.1 million Exit 15 project began in mid-February, and was being handled by Shaw Brothers Construction Co. The company blasted through a rock shelf to create the new ramp, and hauled away 40,000 cubic yards of stone in the process.
Exit 15 had always been a three-ramp intersection, but the project created a fourth ramp to allow motorists to enter I-295’s northbound lanes. The exit was opened in early July.
By Thanksgiving, the state is expected open an adjacent project – a 300-car Park & Ride lot at the interchange.
Construction workers lay down a special pavement mix on Sunday, Sept. 15, that will help cars maintain traction through the sharp curve at Interstate 295 Exit 15 in Yarmouth. Despite the tight radius, the ramp fits within federal safety standards and there have been no accidents since the newly redesigned exit opened in early July.