YARMOUTH — Getting in and out of town should become easier as the state moves ahead with a project to transform Exit 15 of Interstate 295.
A redesigned on-ramp from Route 1 to the southbound interstate, a new northbound on-ramp and a park-and-ride lot to accommodate 300 vehicles highlight the features of the $8.15 million project funded by the Maine Department of Transportation.
DOT Project Manager Ernie Martin said he expects the contract for the project will go out to bid in December, will be awarded next February, and work may possibly begin next March.
Town Manager Nat Tupper said the work will benefit the town in several ways.
“We anticipate as much as a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in the amount of northbound traffic entering 295 at Exit 17,” Tupper said in an email. Exit 17 is at the northern end of Route 88.
Martin said the work will create a safer way for drivers to get on the southbound highway lanes, and is part of a continuing effort to make the interstate highway safer.
“That is really what it is about: safety and mobility,” he said.
To get an idea of what the construction changes mean, Martin suggested drivers consider the ongoing work to the south, on bridges and ramps at Exits 3, 4 and 7.
The Exit 15 southbound entrance from Route 1 to I-295 allows drivers to accelerate on a straight path, but the lack of a merge lane on the highway itself means they need to make quick decisions while driving at high speeds, Martin said.
By curving the on-ramp so it meets the highway closer to the Route 1 bridge, drivers will be going slower, and be able to use a merge lane once on the highway, Martin said.
Design drawings show the current southbound on-ramp will lead to a park-and-ride lot. The Route 1 bridge will be changed to be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, too.
Drivers exiting northbound to Route 1 will use an off-ramp that Martin said will be reconfigured to slow traffic, especially as it merges with Route 1.
Because of the commuter traffic using the interchange, Martin said construction work will occur outside of peak travel hours as much as possible.
If next winter is as mild as this one, he said construction could begin in March and be done in early autumn.
Tupper said growth and development in Yarmouth and surrounding towns require better design for “community livability as well as safety and traffic mobility.”
“This project is a move that helps in all those areas,” he added.
Exit 15 on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth will undergo more than $8 million in changes, including a shortened southbound on-ramp from Route 1, a new northbound on-ramp from Route 1 and a park-and-ride lot with space for 300 vehicles. Construction could begin in about a year.