Saturday, May 10, 2014

Greensboro, NC: Interstate Construction Central

On June 17, NCDOT plans to let the next construction project for its Greensboro Loop project, the northeast segment from US 70 to US 29. When work starts sometime later in the summer, this will be the third interstate construction project to get the go-ahead in the Greensboro/Guilford County, NC area in the past six months. Over the next few years this will make the Triad Area on North Carolina one of the busiest places for road construction in the country.

A Breakdown of the Interstate Construction Projects:
1. Greensboro Loop, NW Segment, from Bryan Blvd. to Battleground Ave. (US 220).
Contract Number: C203197
Length: 3.8 Miles
Cost: $122,804,388.50
Construction started: October 30, 2013
Estimated completion: March 14, 2018 

This project to build the next segment of I-840 from Bryan Blvd. to Battleground Avenue has been underway since last year. So far, the project has been noticeable due to all the land cleared for the future roadway. When finished I-840 will be extended to US 220 and the western half of the project will be nearly finished. The project had an added benefit, since the contract includes updating signage along the existing Loop, showing the future I-73 signage to be placed along the Loop and along Bryan Blvd. to the PTI Airport interchange. The sign changes will also occur along I-40, as this plan image shows:
 The destinations, or control cities for I-73 will be the Airport and Martinsville, VA. Also I-73 exit numbers will be applied to the existing exits south of Bryan Blvd. West Friendly Ave., currently exit 3 will become Exit 104, and Bryan Blvd. will become Exit 107:

Apparently, NCDOT feels that since I-73 leaves the Loop it should exit itself, instead of I-840 getting the exit number. The plans also revealed the exit number for the PTI Airport exit will be 109:
This exit ramp will then split giving the Airport traffic a separate ramp to use:

The contract will also replace the current Future I-73/I-840 signs with similar ones with interstate shields.
The northern end of the project will be the interchange with US 220 as the sign plan indicates:
 
2. Future I-73 from Existing SR-2085 (Bryan Blvd) / Airport Pkwy Interchange to South of US-220 Near Haw River.
Contract No.: C203433

Length: 9.4 Miles
Cost: $176,550,000.00
Construction started: May 7, 2014
Estimated completion: April 25, 2017

This project combined two previous projects the first to build the 'NC 68-US 220 Connector' that would take I-73 about 7 miles from north of the PTI Airport to US 220 near Summerfield and the 'I-73 Connector' to take I-73 from NC 68 to Bryan Blvd at the Airport exit. The NC 68-US 220 Connector project has been planned for years, however, the I-73 Connector project only gained approval within the last year and was pushed along by Airport interests who wanted a new taxiway that will be built as part of the project. The project is a Design-Build contract so no plans were released when the project was let. The published Request for Proposal documents, however, indicate that the tie-in between the two projects along NC 68 will not be an upgrade of the existing expressway, but the building of 2 parallel roadways for I-73 traffic on either side. The complete set of available documents for the project can be found on the contract's Letting Details website.

3. Greensboro Loop, NE Segment, from US 70 to US 29.
Contract Number: C203399
Length: 5.5 Miles
Cost: $119,000,000 (Est.)
Construction to start: July 2014
Estimated completion: Spring 2018

This is the second of three projects to build the eastern-half of the Greensboro Loop. This segment will continue the existing 2 mile segment that connected I-40/I-85 to US 70 about another 6 miles to US 29. NCDOT has gotten permission to sign both open segments of the Loop as I-840. Apparently though, to prevent any confusion as to 2 different I-840s before the entire Loop is completed, NCDOT will sign this segment only as I-785. NCDOT received permission from the FHWA for this designation in 2013. As the plan images below show, the signs will be designed to eventually have an I-840 shield also. Here's the future signage at the current split of I-40 East and I-85 South at the Loop:
Here's signage on the opposite side of the Loop for I-40 East:

There will be two exits on the new segment, the first for Huffine Road:

The second for US 29, with US 29 North being the future route of I-785 and where it will leave the loop (hence future panels in this exit sign plan):

It seems unlikely that I-785 will be signed along US 29 until well after the Loop is constructed. Sign plans for US 29 at the Loop interchange, one that reveals future exit numbers with US 29 mileposts, seem to confirm this:


A full description of the Greensboro Loop projects can be found at NCDOT's Greensboro Urban Loop site.

Given these three projects, and the start of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway (Future I-74) construction early next year in next-door Forsyth County, this will be an area highway construction enthusiasts will want to monitor for, at least, the next four or five years.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Day in New York: The Biggest Road Map Ever!


The NY State Pavilion

22nd April 2014 was the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the 1964-65 World's Fair in what's now known as Flushing Meadows Corona Park. There has been an active effort to restore the New York State Pavilion. It's an iconic structure, and has the potential to be a great attraction. I'm not just talking out of my hat here: Today's viewing event drew thousands. One of the organisers said they expected like 800 people to show up. My DP and I went-and we got there early- the event started at 11.00am, and we got there at 10, and the line was incredible even then:  we waited on line to get a number for two hours and another hour and a half to get our number called. We left the park at 3.00 pm, and one of my friends from a band said he had gotten his number, and was waiting to get in and wondered if we were still about. This was at 4 pm.

One of the features of the Pavilion is that the floor is a giant NY State roadmap by Rand McNally, and sponsored by Texaco. Sadly, with the neglect of the pavilion, and due to the construction of the map(Terrazo on plywood on sand), the map has deteriorated pretty badly. New York State Pavilion Paint Project has taken steps to prevent further damage to the map by covering it with sand and gravel. Part of the map was taken up and put in storage-the tiles covering eastern Long Island.

Part of today's event featured a display of four of the tiles:





The eventual plan is to restore all of the map(and the rest of the pavilion).

One of the features of Flushing Meadows Corona Park is that it's bounded by the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway, as well as bisected by the Long Island Expressway, giving the Roads Scholar opportunity to get some decent shots of these roads on foot.


Grand Central Pkwy looking north:
BJK is for Billie Jean King.


Long Island Expressway at the Van Wyck.





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 .