State transportation officials hope to capitalize on a 50% reduction in traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic by being "aggressive" with road projects.
Work to reconstruct the two I-95 south on-ramps in Wilmington near Second and Jackson streets into a longer, single ramp began Wednesday. This project is a precursor to the massive renovation of the interstate's bridges, ramps and surface in the city that will begin next March.
Officials say the location is one of the most dangerous along I-95 in Delaware. They've recorded about 80 crashes in the past five years where the two ramps merge onto the highway, said Delaware Department of Transportation spokesman C.R. McLeod.
The $20 million project is being done by contractor R.E. Pierson Construction Inc.
The Second Street south on-ramp will be closed around May 2, DelDOT said. The Jackson Street ramp will permanently close in August.
Two turn lanes will be added so motorists driving east on Lancaster Avenue can make two left turns (onto Adams Street then Second Street) to access the new ramp onto the interstate.
The new Second Street ramp is expected to be reopened by the end of the year, in time for the main I-95 undertaking that is sure to cause congestion and headaches for city residents and commuters along the Northeast Corridor.
"This ramp will remain open throughout the duration of the larger rehab
project," McLeod said. "Having this completed in advance will ensure one constant."
t's not clear yet whether fewer drivers on the roads will speed up the ramp reconstruction, but McLeod said DelDOT has been "aggressive" on other projects, taking advantage of a "drastically reduced amount of traffic."
The traffic reductions have been as dramatic as 70% on some roads, McLeod said. For instance, some work requiring lane closures at the I-95, Route 141 interchange that was going to occur overnight has been shifted to daytime.
Officials have also been able to reduce Route 1 between Middletown and Smyrna to one lane during the day for repaving, McLeod said.
He stopped short of predicting faster completion of the projects.
"At this time, we're comfortably on schedule," he said. "One unknown is always the weather."