After years of debate and planning, work to overhaul the five corners interchange in Ellington on the Vernon, South Windsor and East Windsor town lines will begin Friday.
No folks, this is not an April Fools joke.
The project that will replace the existing intersection – which includes routes 74 and 286 and Skinner, Pinney and Windsorville roads - with a modern roundabout to improve safety and traffic flow through the notoriously clunky area will really begin on Friday, according to Will Britnell, principal engineer with the state Department of Transportation.
The $1.2 million, federally funded project will include new sidewalks, crosswalks and a storm water drainage system for the area. A truck apron will be built around the center island of the roundabout and the mountable splitter islands will be constructed of a stamped colored concrete.
The work will be completed over the next several months with goal of having it nearly done, with the exception of some minor finishing touches, by November, Britnell said. The entire project should be finished by June 2012. Colossale Concrete, Inc. of Berlin was awarded the bid in December.
Knowing that the finished product will help alleviate congestion in the area was welcome news to town officials. Yet, knowing that the next several months will most likely bring additional traffic delays and complaints about travelers using local and secondary roads to avoid the intersection was not.
The hardest part of the job, according to Britnell, will be managing the traffic during construction. He acknowledged that there will be delays and possibly additional traffic along local roads, but he asked that people “have a little bit of patience.”
Although it was not initially a popular concept or the original idea, the DOT had considered installing streetlights, Britnell said this road system is ideal for a “modern roundabout.”
“A lot of people equate them to the to the old rotaries and traffic circles, like what they have on Cape Cod where the circle is about 400 to 500 feet in diameter,” Britnell said.
“The roundabout is about 120 to 150 feet in diameter and the traffic moves much, much slower” within the circle, yet traffic is able to keep flowing from the roads that feed into the roundabout, Britnell said.
Other ways the new roundabouts differ from the old is the way traffic merges; the cars in the roundabout have the right-of-way, Britnell said, allowing cars to smoothly flow in and out of the area.
Britnell stressed the importance of the project to alleviate congestion in the area and improve the safety by better controlling the speed of the traffic and taking the guesswork out of who has the right of way at the intersection.
Britnell said studies have shown that roundabouts help to reduce the amount and severity of accidents and have proven to be much safer than conventional intersections.
Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy said this week that the project is “necessary to meet those standards.”
Ellington First Selectman Maurice Blanchette credited his predecessor Michael Stupinski and other town officials for their hard work and persistence with encouraging state officials to do something about the interchange.
“I hope that we will be able to enjoy their rewards,” Blanchette said. “I certainly hope that the state’s objective to improve traffic and the safety of travelers is met.”
Over the coming weeks and months, expect alternating one-way traffic in the area on Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and possibly 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. For more details about traffic delays and construction updates log onto the state DOT Web site.