The I-91 construction project impact

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the state puts the finishing touches on plans to reconstruct Interstate 91 in Springfield, many of you are wondering how this project will impact your life.

Over the next couple of weeks, the 22News I-Team will bring you a series of stories that we hope will answer some of your questions.

“The bottom line is we have to do the project. This is an absolute necessity and we need to get it done sooner than later,” said Tim Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

It’s no secret that the raised section of I-91 in Springfield is deteriorating and needs work. Now, it’s finally going to get it and the big question is how will the construction impact you?

“What is this going to do us? Halt our business, improve our business,” said Joanne Buoniconti, who owns Mercolino’s Italian Bakery that sits along the highway.

To get answers, the I-Team crunched the numbers and traveled the region to talk to experts. We found out there are 75,000 cars that drive that stretch of I-91 daily. In order to fix the highway, exits will periodically close and there will be detours set up in downtown Springfield.

The project’s traffic and safety director, Neil Boudreau, out of Boston told the I-Team the main detour, Columbus Avenue will be modified to accommodate the influx of traffic.

“Some improvements at some of the signalized intersections change some patterns in terms of how we are routing some traffic through the intersections, improve sequencing and timing,” said Boudreau.

We’ll be down from 3 to 2 lanes of traffic each direction. In all, the I-Team found out that drivers should expect an additional 10 to 15 minutes to be tacked onto their commute.

However, aside from the traffic, we discovered another potential problem that has yet to be solved: parking.

“Very good question and one of the ones that is being wrestled with. It is not yet clear from the engineering staff whether the parking areas under 91 can be kept open during construction,” Brennan added.

Shop owners are also waiting to hear how construction will impact their business. “I’d like to see (more cars down here) as long as the traffic jams aren’t too bad,” said Jeffrey Cohen of Jeff’s Picture Framing.

“This extra traffic it may help, it may not. I think everyone is (having concerns) that are along these streets here. We are all wondering, but you know we are hoping it will turn out good,” said Buoniconti.

Soon enough, they’ll find out first-hand. The $260 million project goes out for contractors to bid this summer, construction starts shortly after and is expected to last 3 years.

In the second part of this series, the I-Team traveled to a couple different areas in New England that had recently completed massive transportation projects of their own to find out what, if any, unexpected changes they came across once construction began.

It will help us get a better idea of what can happen to the cost and timeline of our project here. That’s next week on 22News.

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