Trees, rocks, and houses have been removed along Route 2 near Crosby’s Corner in Lincoln and Concord during the past month, marking the first significant signs of work on long-awaited safety improvements to the busy intersection.
The $48.2 million project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2016, said Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The project calls for construction of neighborhood service roads that would run parallel to Route 2. Also, a bridge will be added to carry Route 2 traffic over the intersection of Route 2A, so vehicles can flow unimpeded where there is now a traffic light.
The project starts at Bedford Road in Lincoln and extends to 300 feet west of Sandy Pond Road’s intersection with Route 2 in Concord.
Officials say the goal is to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for westbound commuters navigating a sharp turn at Crosby’s Corner, and homeowners who have trouble exiting and entering the transportation link with Boston. Police say the area has been the scene of many accidents over the years.
With work now underway, officials say drivers will face lane closures and additional congestion at nonpeak hours.
“While the landscape looks quite stark now compared to what it was, most Concord residents seem to be worried about traffic congestion for the next few years during construction, and are anxious to see the long-awaited safety improvements finally in place,’’ said Concord Town Manager Chris Whelan.
Verseckes said the state has a plan in place to keep traffic backups to a minimum, and so far, Concord officials say, the project is going smoothly.
“In order to make the construction improvements to address safety concerns, there is going to be this impact,’’ said the town’s Department of Public Works director, Richard Reine. “There’s a lot of action going on and they are well aware of our priority with the traffic management. Our priority is to keep traffic flowing to the greatest extent possible.’’
Tree cutting is expected to last for another two weeks, followed by stump removal and excavation work. Blasting and rock excavation also will start within the next two weeks for the new service road, which runs from the cul de sac at Oak Knoll Road to Bedford Road.
In all, the state has taken 10 properties and has demolished 10 buildings to make way for the project. In addition, the state is clearing trees from about 10 hectares of land. Each hectare equals about 2.5 acres, or 107,637 square feet.
Verseckes said the state is allowing the contractor, D.W. White Construction of Acushnet, to close lanes on Route 2 eastbound between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and westbound from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Initially, the contract stated that lane closures could occur only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., leading to more nighttime work. But given some of the night work would have involved tree cutting and chipping, the contractor’s schedule has been changed so it can get more work during daytime hours, Verseckes said.
“We’re confident that this will reduce the amount of noisy work occurring at night, and will not overly impact traffic volumes during the hours where we’re allowing lane restrictions,’’ Verseckes said.
As an additional measure, the state has adjusted the timing of the signal at Crosby’s Corner to allow a more continuous flow of vehicles headed west on Route 2. Verseckes said engineers will be closely monitoring the traffic and will open closed lanes if the backup gets too long.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on the westbound side of Route 2 leading up to Crosby’s Corner, and we’ll make temporary adjustments to allow for traffic congestion that builds up too much to clear out,’’ he said.
Concord Police Chief Barry Neal said he’s comfortable with the plan, and so far there have not been any issues. He said the department has not received any complaints from residents about congestion on Route 2 or drivers cutting through neighborhoods to avoid traffic.
“We anticipate it could be a bit challenging here and there, but so far they have done a great job,’’ Neal said.
Concord officials urged commuters to take public transportation if possible, and periodically check the town’s website (www.concordma.gov) for updated construction information. The website lists the expected work schedule two weeks out.
Neal also urges residents to call the Police Department with any concerns or complaints.
Over the next month or so, much of the work will involve excavation, Verseckes said. The contractor will continue tree cutting, stump and root removal and temporary widening of a road on the eastbound side of Route 2 near Orchard Lane to Rockwood Lane, and from Old Cambridge Turnpike to Rockwood Lane.
Also, there is ongoing earth work and rock excavation in the vicinity of Orchard Lane and Rockwood Lane, and a temporary road widening from Old Cambridge Turnpike to Rockwood Lane.
There is also ongoing tree stump and root removal around Bedford Road, the location of a new service road; additional tree cutting on both sides of Route 2 from the MassDOT depot to Sandy Pond Road; drainage work on Route 2 eastbound from Orchard Lane to Rockwood Lane; and the beginning of stump and root removal and earth work between Oak Knoll Road and Bedford Road.