NEW HAVEN — Their usual area of interest is marine traffic, not vehicular, but Port Authority officials Tuesday were treated to a close view of the massive interstate highway project that crosses New Haven Harbor.
Escorted by state Department of Transportation engineers to the new stretch of highway that ultimately will serve as the Route 34 connection going east from downtown, Port Authority Executive Director Judi Sheiffele said the tour helped to make sense of the complex construction project that continues in New Haven.
The $2.2 billion Interstate 95-New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor, which includes additional lanes going east as far as Cedar Street Exit in Branford, a new 10-lane extradosed Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge over the Quinnipiac River and a new interchange for I-95 and Interstate 91, has been in progress since 2000 and won’t be finished until 2016.
“It’s especially difficult to comprehend when they start talking about the interchange. To be actually out here helps,” Sheiffele said as the commissioners walked the Route 34 connection on a steamy afternoon.
Their vantage point looked down on the Wooster Square entrance northbound to Interstate 95, as well as the Route 34 entrance from downtown to the three lanes of I-95 northbound over what will be a five-lane bridge in each direction with full shoulders.
It was the site of various buildings from the Fitch Foundry to Jack’s Bar & Grill and a Texaco station where at least one commissioner used to get her oil changed until the highway expansion came along.
Commissioner Patricia Drax hopes that going forward the growing emphasis on public transportation will kick in and cut the need for future road expansion.
She saw the need for this massive undertaking, however, which has been in the planning since the 1990s.
“I have no objection to the project,” said Drax, who was happy to see how it all fits together.
Some of the things they learned about the many components of the project:
The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge is the first extradosed bridge in the U.S., which is a hybrid between a regular cable supported structure and a prestressed concrete bridge.
The bridge is drilled into bedrock; on the east end rock is only 30-40 feet from the surface, while on the west end it goes down 200 feet, making it necessary to have two types of foundation. On the west end workers used 620 concrete friction piles that are 90 feet to 125 feet long; the east side has 8-foot-wide drill shafts with cutting teeth that are twisted into the bedrock.
Those flutes you see on along the new bridge will hold the cables that will grace both sides of the structure.
Road deck of the bridge is only about 3 or 4 feet above the current bridge, but the approaches are higher.
3D-4D drawings helped predict and avoid problems with the design and placement of the steel girders that were part of the flyover bridge that exits traffic downtown from I-95 northbound.
The projects replace all left-hand exits.
The new bridge is expected to carry 150,000 cars daily and last 100 years, with completion in 2016.
By Mary E. O’Leary, Register Topics Editor