The roundabout under construction between the Interstate 95 interchange and the service plaza in West Gardiner is expected to be paved for drivers within the next two weeks.

The single-lane roundabout, being built largely with federal highway safety funds, is replacing a blinking traffic light at one of the state’s most crash-prone intersections. It will have five legs connecting the intersection of Route 126, the exit and entrance to the turnpike service plaza, and the Interstate 95 northbound exit and southbound entrance ramps.

Construction began this spring, and the project is scheduled to be finished by December, but the Maine Department of Transportation project manager said crews are working to get it done as quickly as they can.

Once paving is finished, within the next week and a half if the weather cooperates, project manager Shawn Smith said, he will have a better idea of a completion date.

“As it is with every project, the sooner we can get done, the better,” he said.

The construction crew was excavating the old road this past week and will be preparing the gravel at the start of next week, Smith said. If rain doesn’t delay the process, the workers are expected to begin paving Wednesday, he said.

The road has been limited to one lane during part of the construction, but starting in a week, crews will have to keep two lanes of traffic open during peak travel times. As part of the project contract, two lanes of traffic must be open between June 20 and Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Smith said he doesn’t expect delays to get much worse next week, before the work limitations must be followed. He also said there isn’t any weekend work planned for the project, and he doesn’t expect it will be necessary.

“We appreciate everybody’s patience, and we’re doing everything we can with as minimal impact as we can,” Smith said.

Federal highway safety funds will cover 90 percent of the $1.5 million project, and the Maine Turnpike Authority, a quasi-state agency, will pick up the remaining 10 percent. The project was put forward, and is receiving federal funds, because of the high crash rate at the intersection.

The intersection had a higher critical rate factor, which takes into account the number of crashes and amount of traffic in a location, than anywhere else in Maine. After the service plaza was built in 2008, the number of crashes jumped, from two in the prior four years to 34 in the four years afterward, according to the department.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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