Work on Interstate 295 through Greater Portland that began in mid-June is expected to end for the season by late November, transportation officials say.

Project managers in the Maine Department of Transportation were scheduled to meet Thursday evening with the contractor, Lane Construction Corp., for an update on the progress. They already know bridge repairs that turned out to be more extensive than expected will push some work into next summer, and possibly into a third year.

“We were pretty ambitious with what we tried to get accomplished,” said Brad Foley, the department’s highway project manager.

Crews have been paving southbound bridges at night this week, and finishing new lanes and safety improvements at Franklin Street in Portland, Exit 7. They also have been installing new guardrails from Falmouth to Freeport.

Three southbound ramps in Portland — at Veranda Street, Congress Street West and Park Avenue — continue to need work that’s keeping them closed.

The $20 million project has tested the patience of commuters, who have had to respond to traffic backups and shifting lane closures, and find new routes around ramps that have been out of service for months.

Work crews have been repaving the northbound lanes from Falmouth to Freeport, and the southbound lanes from Falmouth to Scarborough. They also have been doing maintenance and repaving on bridges and installing new guardrail systems.

Except for the bridge work, the project has gone largely as planned, said Jim Wentworth, a construction manager for the Department of Transportation.

Eighteen bridges are being repaired on the southbound side of the interstate; five northbound bridges are being repaired, including the Royal River Bridge in Yarmouth. Before bridge work was scheduled, core samples were taken to assess the condition of the concrete deck under the road surface. “We ran into more repairs than were anticipated,” Wentworth said.

That has meant more time patching the concrete decks, some of which haven’t been repaired in 20 years. The goal is to keep them functioning for another 20 years or so, and put off expensive deck replacement.

Once the decks are patched, the bridges can be resurfaced. But the weather is too cold now for permanent pavement — below 50 degrees at night — so crews are using a temporary mix that can be applied in lower temperatures, Wentworth said.

The bridge work and related ramp closures have frustrated some commuters, including those who use the southbound on-ramp from Veranda Street in Portland leading to Tukey’s Bridge. Signs at the ramp indicated it would reopen in late July, then mid-September, then Oct. 20. The sign now says Nov. 20.

“They don’t change the date until it’s almost the final day. It’s like Lucy and the football,” said David Nicklas of Falmouth, who was reminded of the Peanuts cartoon.

Nicklas said he saw traffic in the summer backed up as far back as the Martin’s Point Bridge. Like many residents, he didn’t know that the unanticipated concrete work was extending the ramp closures.

Wentworth said Thursday that he isn’t sure when the Exit 5B, Congress Street West ramp and the Park Avenue on-ramp will reopen.

At Franklin Street, crews are completing a major safety upgrade that’s meant to keep exiting traffic from backing up onto the highway. The northbound and southbound exit ramps have been expanded to two lanes. A new signal light will control traffic before it reaches Marginal Way, to give drivers coming from each direction a chance to merge.

Guardrails are being installed, with striping and buffer planting to follow. The work is on schedule, Wentworth said, although he couldn’t say exactly when it will be complete.

In addition to this year’s spillover work, the Department of Transportation plans repaving and bridge work next summer on the highway’s northbound lanes. It’s too early to say what stretches will be done, but Foley said he hopes it will be easier to manage traffic south of Portland, where drivers approach the city from a slower, 50 mph zone.

“It should help with driver expectations,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: [email protected]