I-91 Project: Planning for the unexpected

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The last thing anyone wants is for the I-91 project to go over budget or take longer than expected, so the 22News I-Team found out what they’re doing to keep that from happening.

Springfield’s highly traveled I-91 raised highway is scheduled to be under construction for 3 years and cost about $260 million. With 75,000 cars driving over it every day, it’s important it stays on schedule.

“It’s going to be tough. Especially on the people going to work, it’s going to be tough,” said West Springfield’s Theresa Lane.

The I-Team traveled from Springfield to Boston and Connecticut to find out what factors have slowed other big road projects in the region.

In Boston, we talked to Neil Boudreau, the projects Traffic and Safety Director who admits sometimes the unexpected happens. Boudreau said, “Anytime you start getting into the structural, taking the deck off and stuff like that, looking at the structure, it usually comes down to unexpected repairs.”

Boudreau said crews have already started checking for problem spots in the steel, but some of it simply can’t be checked until they actually start digging.

Connecticut Department of Transportation Spokesman Kevin Nursick had good news and bad news when it comes to cost of the project.

The good news is in this economy, bids on the project are competitive. Nursick said, “These days projects tend to be coming in under-budget, it’s a competitive bidding market out there now.”

The bad news we found out is the cost of everything is going up and that includes building materials. “Like the price of steel might change from one month to the next or an unforeseen circumstance, which is no fault of the contractor. Could add to the price of a project but you basically build those things into the project to a reasonable level, could be 20% -25% potential contingencies to a mega project,” Nursick said.

When we asked Boudreau about cost inflation, he said they’ve already over budgeted it. “We always carry extra allowances in case something we didn’t foresee happens. At least we don’t have to worry about asking for more money after the fact.”

As far as the timeline is concerned, Richard Davey, the state’s Transportation Secretary told the I-Team while we have years of work ahead, drivers can expect breaks.

“You know we say 3 years but we wont do a lot of work in the winter so it’s probably more like seven months and some time off, seven months and some time off. So, that’s the challenge that we have,” Davey said.

We’ll know more about the cost and timeline when the project goes out to bid this summer.

The 22News I-Team continues to learn more about this project for you. The I-Team is working on getting the results of a survey that just went out to the community, you may have filled one out.

We’ll have the results in our investigation on Monday.

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