As drivers going north on Interstate 295 get close to Yarmouth, they can get a sensation of being buffeted by high winds.

In fact, their tires are riding up on the sides of grooves in the travel lane. In wet weather, the grooves become parallel streams that can make a car hydroplane.

The Maine Department of Transportation plans an $8.4 million project to resurface the northbound lanes from Portland to Freeport. Work will start next month and run until October.

The project, which will require one lane to be closed, is scheduled to be done from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday to minimize the impact on commuters and tourists.

The project will level the road and add cable-style guardrail along much of the median, to reduce the number of crashes in which cars cross the grassy center strip.

“On that particular stretch (of the interstate), we’re at the point where we have to do something,” said Brad Foley, highway program manager for the Department of Transportation. “What I’m calling it is tired pavement. The top layer is rutted.”

Foley said that stretch of road has deteriorated since it was last renovated, in the early 1990s, because of “a combination of the effects of weather over time, truck traffic and maybe the mix design we used at the time. . . . We’ve got more advanced pavement mixes that we use these days.”

The project will be done by Pike Industries, which will scrape off the top 4 inches of pavement, grind it and mix it with fresh asphalt to lay down a new road surface, Foley said.

He said the state’s traffic counts show that the number of vehicles on that section of I-295 drops significantly after 7 p.m. and on weekends, so the lane closures shouldn’t create a major inconvenience.

Work on the Royal River Bridge in Yarmouth will require the closure of one lane of the bridge from Friday night to Monday morning for two weekends, though it won’t be on holiday weekends, Foley said.

The work will run from the Portland-Falmouth line to the Desert Road interchange in Freeport.

Foley said the project has been planned for several years. It will include guardrail along the median where the strip is 30 feet or narrower, Foley said.

There have been several serious accidents and near-collisions as drivers have lost control and gone across the median into oncoming traffic, Foley said. Cable-style guardrail is used on I-295 just south of Portland. It is fairly inexpensive and much easier and quicker to repair than standard metal guardrails, he said.

Maine State Police Lt. Louis Nyitray, supervisor of the troop that covers I-295, said he and his troopers are familiar with the highway’s hazards.

“It certainly can be a problem, especially during wet weather. You can get some hydroplaning” where the road has grooves, he said.

Nyitray advises any driver who feels that sideways tug to hold the steering wheel firmly, rather than jerking it in response.

Police will monitor the construction zone carefully to make sure motorists are driving safely, Nyitray said.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]