Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined state transportation officials and local elected officials atop the Fairfield Avenue Bridge on Wednesday to celebrate the nearly completed Interstate 95 expansion project in Norwalk.
The $45 million project, which began in 2012, has resulted in the creation an additional operating lane in each direction, between Exits 14 and 15.
The new auxiliary lanes are designed to gives drivers space and time to adjust their speeds outside of the main traffic flow as they transition to or from the interchange ramps, according to Malloy’s office.
The new northbound lane is already open and the new southbound lane is scheduled to open next month.
“Very shortly, southbound traffic will move as well as northbound traffic already is and that’s because we have already opened the lane on northbound,” Malloy said. “I’m excited to make that announcement that this entire project will be completed by year end.”
Malloy labeled the project critical to relieving a major “choke point” along Interstate 95 and helping the local and state economies. On average, Connecticut residents spend more than 40 hours per year — a full work-week — in congestion. The extra time costs the state economy $4.2 billion annually, he said.
Approximately 140,000 vehicles travel the stretch daily during week days, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT).
ConnDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker thanked lawmakers, transportation department staff and contractors, including O&G Industries, for their work on the lane-expansion project.
Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters held a large banner reading “Transportation Means Jobs!!!”
Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling said the project will benefit commuters, visitors and investors.
“This is a project that is going to open up I-95, make it easier for people to come into town, to invest, make less of a log jam,” Rilling said. “So we’re really, really pleased that we’re now seeing the end of the project.”
Malloy said the expansion project should have been undertaken 15 years ago when Interstate 95 was widened near Exit 8 in Stamford. Upon taking office in January 2011, he made the Norwalk expansion project a priority.
“I couldn’t be happier that he did that. He fulfilled that campaign promise and he made sure this work got done,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-25, of Norwalk. “He understood that this is choke point No. 1 on I-95 in this area.”
The project entailed the reconstruction of the Cedar Street and Taylor and Fairfield Avenue bridges with blasting conducted at times to remove rock. The Fairfield Avenue bridge will reopen shortly, according to ConnDOT.
Malloy and Duff used the news conference to tout the governor’s 30-year transportation plan.
“We’re going to see more projects like this,” Duff said.
State Rep. Fred Wilms, R-142, a member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, said the expansion work was “desperately needed.”
“I’ve been a huge supporter of these interchange lanes and the widening and it will remove the bottleneck that’s here,” Wilms said.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-143, expressed her support for the lane expansion but questioned Malloy’s funding of transportation.
“I’m still puzzled as to how you can say transportation funding has been beefed up, when you’re pulling it out at the other end,” Lavielle said. “In this budget there’s a half percent of the sales tax going into transportation and then they’re canceling the transfer from the general fund to the special transportation fund.”