Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two Day Drive Along I-95

I had a conference to attend on Friday and Saturday in Portsmouth, NH. Since I decided to save some money and not book a room, but commute instead, I had a couple opportunities to check out new signage along I-95 (and parts of I-93 too) both Friday and Saturday.

1. Friday Drive
For the Friday trip up I used I-93 and US 1 to take me to I-95 in Peabody. The only new sign worth taking a photo of along I-93 was the newly placed Exit 15 attractions sign which had been put up blank in February but recently received its logos:
MassDOT has gone recently to brown backgrounds for the site logo, originally these were a darker blue. The placement of the sign makes it hard to see around the light pole. There was nothing else new to report. The contractor still has additional foundations to pour before they can start installing sign supports along this stretch of I-93 from Braintree to Boston.

There is a new sign replacement project to complete the sign updating along I-95 from Peabody to the NH border. Work along the contract area has only recently begun with just 7% of it reported complete according to MassDOT as of early March. The only signs of work were a few overhead sign support foundations, or holes preparing for foundations and new gore signs for Exits 47 and 48 in the Danvers area. Work has begun on on building a new Merrimack River bridge and widening I-95 between Exits 57 and 58. Here's a photo I took Friday of the construction:

The new bridge is being built east of the current bridge, barriers are along both sides of the roadway while the new 4th lane is built north of the bridge in the existing median. Here's a closer look approaching the bridge from Saturday morning:
There were two lanes closed on Saturday morning, only one Friday.

On the way back I decided to take I-95 around Boston to check out new signage going up between Lexington and Newton. This project, again according to MassDOT, is now 54% complete and still scheduled to be completed this fall. Here's a late afternoon shot of the new overhead for MA 4/MA 225 after the US 3 exit in Burlington:
This is to supplant the ground-mounted new signs put up under the Burlington to Reading sign contract completed in 2011:
That's still standing for now. Here's the next new overhead sign with, surprise, an older sign behind it:
The pole in front is for a traffic camera, which first clued me in a new sign had been installed. There area also more sporadic new signage heading south. Here's the one new sign for MA 2A:
The one mile advance sign has been changed out, but the only other is for MA 2A West...
There is only one new sign for the next interchange, MA 2 heading southbound. The 1/2 mile advance sign for MA 2 West:
The only other new sign in the vicinity is an updated version of the ground mounted Waltham exits auxiliary sign:
New signage had been previously placed at the Totten Pond Road exit when the bridge was reconstructed in 2012. The next new signage under the current contract is for US 20.
This 1 mile advance overhead is followed by a new ground-mounted auxiliary sign for MA 117:
And then a new 1/2 mile advance overhead for US 20:
A separate contract is installing new larger 'Best Route to Logan Airport' with a plane logo and arrow pointing in the correct direction. Here is one of these signs approaching the Mass Pike/I-90 exit:
Similar signs have gone up on I-93 North in Braintree and I-95 South in Peabody (the latter telling drivers to use the US 1 exit). The next new signage is just beyond the I-90 interchange:
Quite a lot of info for one overhead assembly. Three different exits and a blue sign for the one remaining service plaza along '128' heading southbound. The new signs remove the MBTA information from the overheads for Exit 22 and put them onto ground-mounted auxiliary signs:
There is also one new overhead sign for the MA 16 East exit, the last new sign under this contract heading south:
There are more new overhead signage heading southbound from the '128 Add-A-Lane' project which is now concentrating efforts between Great Plain Ave and MA 109 in Dedham. Here's the first:
A new 1/2 mile advance sign for Great Plain Ave. put up last fall. There area also a couple other newer sign assemblies put up at the same time further south, here before the off-ramp to Great Plain Ave:
That covers the 1/2 mile advance sign for MA 135 as well, and a couple at the MA 135 exit:
This one missing a future 'Exit Only' banner, while the one at the off-ramp:
Has the banner but needs a lane for it. There is one more new overhead, the one-mile advance for MA 109, the rest of the signs for that exit still need to be replaced.


2. Saturday
On the trip up Saturday, I decided to heed MassDOT's advice and avoid driving I-93 through Boston due to possible congestion from lanes closed for ceiling replacement in the I-90/Mass Pike Prudential Tunnel. This afforded me the opportunity to check out new I-95 construction and signage northbound:
There is now a new lane-split northbound, following that which existed southbound last year, for rebuilding the north I-95 bridge over MA 135. The barriers are protecting the construction zone. Most of the new lanes have been completed. The hold up for this section is the delay in building the bridges for MA 109 which required a design change due to problems with the subsurface rock. Here's a close-up of the lane split approaching MA 135:
Though somewhat obvious, there is no sign saying you need to stay right in order to access the MA 135 off-ramp. The new median barrier ends after the railroad bridge over I-95 after the Great Plain Ave exit:
The final segment of the Add-A-Lane project to MA 9 is supposed to start later this year.

Now back to progress of new signage along I-95 from Newton to Lexington. The latest overhead assembly to go up is approaching the MA 16 exit ramp:
The new I-90 signage matches that previously put up at the off-ramp with the yellow toll banner and Mass Pike logo replacing text. The 'missing Exit 22' is handled by separate new signage for that exit and auxiliary MBTA logo signage seen in the distance. The next new overhead sign was in addition to the new Totten Pond Rd overheads put up in 2012 at the interchange itself. This is the 3/4-Mile advance sign:
Like southbound, new signage is sporadic along I-95 in Waltham and Lexington. This is the 1-Mile advance for Trapelo Road:
The next new sign is at the off-ramp westbound:
Unlike southbound, there are no new overheads for the MA 2 Exit, the next new sign is at the ramp for MA 2A (and the only remaining service plaza northbound):
If you can see the mile marker, this one day will be Exit 46. There is one additional new sign for MA 2A on the C/D ramp after the Service Plaza:
This one for MA 2A West. The last remaining new signs for this project are for the MA 4/MA 225 Exit in Lexington:
There is a new 1-Mile Advance, and 1/2 mile advance signage which, unlike Southbound, are not accompanied by older signage:
And the last new sign is at the westbound off-ramp:
The only new section of '128' lacking new signage now is the section between I-93 and US 1 in Peabody. The only other section of I-95 needing a signage update, besides the remainder of the 'Add-A-Lane' project area, is south of I-93, Exit 12 to the RI border.

In the way home I took a quick trip into Maine via the US 1 bridge that was closed for repair the last time I was in Portsmouth in June 2013:
Here's the view looking south toward Portsmouth, and here is the view heading north:

Here's a photo a left-over detour sign for US 1 in Maine:

On the way home I was able to confirm most of the erroneous MA 2A signs along Mass Ave in Boston's South End had been removed following a Feb. TV report which left some Boston transportation officials with egg on their faces. The few remaining signs have had their directional banners removed, replaced by either 'To' or 'Jct' banners. I could not get any decent photos of these remaining signs, that will have to wait until my next trip into Boston.

To see previous photos taken of new signage check out my I-93 Photo Page or I-95 Photo Page .

Friday, January 03, 2014

I-73/I-74 in NC: 2013, The Year in Review

Before I begin, since I was not able to get down to North Carolina this year, the first year since 1989, I would like to thank all those who provided me information and/or photos during this past year. This includes fellow blogger Adam Prince, along with posters on the AARoads Forum such as Strider and MBHockey13, and contributors to the Facebook group SoutheastRoads such as J. Austin Carter and Chris Curley. The photo below sums up the major accomplishments of 2013, finishing the I-74 freeway from High Point to Randleman and getting the routes officially signed along US 220:
I will sum up the progress of each route during 2013 and then detail what is going to happen during 2014.

I. I-73 in 2013
The year saw a major milestone in the completion of I-73 in North Carolina, the upgrade of signing along the US 220 corridor to reflect its becoming an official interstate route. A contract to upgrade the signing started in March 2013 along the Greensboro Loop:
Starting with adding an I-73 shield to the existing US 220 signage, work continued in signing the remaining south I-73 signs in the spring and changing the exit numbers on signage around the I-73/I-85 interchange:

And heading south from I-85 as well with the addition of South I-73 to the existing signage at Old Randleman Road:
The contractor then moved to the southern end installing new signage and did not convert the final exit numbers in Guilford County until the fall. Meanwhile, the I-74 freeway opened (more below) in Randleman and the previously covered signs were uncovered:
Once the freeway opened, the exit signage was renumbered and upgraded south of the I-74 interchange to match the exit numbering of the Asheboro segment upgraded in 2012:
It was not until late fall that the new interstate shields went up as far north as Guilford County on the freeway:
Or at the on-ramps at interchanges that in Guilford County never had any future shields:
The signage upgrade contract supposedly was to be completed on December 31. It was 89% complete on November 30. Apparently the only task remaining, from reports of drivers along the corridor, was the removal of the future banners on the segment north of Ellerbe. Hopefully, the signs no longer look like this:
And the US 220 signs are gone too. Now I know why they were put on separate sign posts. By the end of the year I was also informed that this sign, at the Loop Ramp to I-73/US 220 was finally taken down:
The other project regarding I-73 was the widening of US 220 north of Greensboro, the work has been slower than expected with only about 25% complete according to NCDOT at the end of November 2013. For the year I-73 officially grew by 42 miles, and is now signed along 78 miles of highway, not counting the portion of the Greensboro Loop, though officially I-73, still signed as Future I-73/I-840.

II. I-74 in 2013:
The big headline for the year for I-74 was the completion of the 'US 311 Bypass' freeway from High Point to Randleman. 


Though work was largely finished by the summer of 2012, problems with putting down another layer of asphalt along the route postponed the opening first from the fall of 2012 then to early 2013 and then finally to June. With the long wait, the opening was almost uneventful, the only surprise to many was that the 311 Bypass did not include US 311 for its last couple miles:
With US 311 getting off the freeway at Sophia and using its old alignment to now I-73/US 220:

The remaining headlines for I-74 had to do with its official signing along US 220 and an announcement by NCDOT in April that the route had been approved for the US 311 freeway in Forsyth County with signs going up over the summer. This would make I-74 an official shortcut route for those heading east from Winston-Salem to the coast and wanting to avoid the Greensboro area. However, no signs went up either in the summer or the rest of the year. According to a Winston-Salem Journal correspondent, the re-signing was to be part of a contract to upgrade I-74 and other highway signage. A contract still not let. This leaves I-74 officially signed at the end of 2013 for a total of 115 miles, not counting US 311 in Forsyth County nor the 10 miles of Future I-74 along the US 74 Rockingham Bypass.

III. What's in Store for 2014
While 2013 marked the completion of several I-73 and I-74 projects, 2014 will be a new beginning for several others. Work is to start in the spring on the building of the US 220-NC 68 Connector paired with the building of the 'I-73 Connector' from NC 68 to Bryan Blvd. at the PTI Airport interchange. Documents released for the next segment of the Greensboro Loop indicate the PTI Airport exit will become Exit 109 when I-73 is complete. The design-build contract will also construct an I-73 freeway parallel to NC 68 between the 2 'Connector' projects and revise the current I-840/I-73/Bryan Blvd interchange, though the start of this part of the project has been postponed a year.

Also starting in January is the first phase of what was called the 'US 220 Rockingham Bypass.' This phase consists of upgrading three miles of current US 220 south of Ellerbe to what will be the interchange with the Bypass. This segment is the only part though that will have US 220 though as plans released in December show US 220 will remain on its current alignment:
As for I-74 related projects, the only one that is currently outstanding is the signage upgrade in Forsyth County, hopefully to be completed this year. The next construction project involving I-74 is the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway portion between US 158 and Business 40 currently scheduled to start in 2015. Perhaps there will be further news about I-74 east of I-95. The only news from the future route in this area this year was the addition of I-74 exit numbers to the NC 242 interchange opened in 2012. Work continues on building the Future I-73 freeway north of Greensboro but that may not be complete until the end of 2015, at the earliest. I hope to be able to get down to North Carolina in the upcoming year to document the progress of the past year or so. Meanwhile I will keep updating my I-73/I-74 in North Carolina site with all the latest news.