In the wake of recent accidents and heightened traffic due to construction on the Interstate 95 New Haven corridor, state officials have released plans to make safety more tightly monitored on the highway. Effective Aug. 29, the corridor will be subject to increased enforcement by police officers from the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Many of the safety concerns have arisen from a traffic shift that occurred in July moving all southbound traffic from the old Pearl Harbor Memorial (Q) Bridge to a new one still under construction. Brian Mercure, the assistant district engineer for the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program, said that the shift poses “difficult weaving and merging issues” for drivers. While Mercure said the new Q-Bridge will ultimately increase capacity and reduce traffic, he said the conditions prior to the safety enhancements elicited an “outcry from the traveling public.”
Speeding is one of the main problems that the police and the general public have cited on the interstate. In a joint press conference with the DESPP and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, an attendee said that “the new conditions of the highways make motorists think its okay to drive faster than the 40 mph speed limit.”
Mercure suspects that one of the reasons behind the speeding is that the new Q-Bridge is much smoother than the bridge it is replacing. Drivers are are used to the old Q-Bridge, Mercure said, and are still adjusting to traveling on the newly constructed bridge.
The onramp at Exit 50 is also posing problems for drivers. The press conference highlighted that motorists on the I-95 move into the right lane as on-ramp traffic is merging left onto the highway. The I-91 southbound merge to the I-95, at Exit 46, is also a site of many rear-end collisions, as traffic from the I-91 makes the merge increasingly difficult.
“Rude and inconsiderate drivers” on the I-95 were a common complaint of the general public. Mercure said that while the construction on the Q-Bridge plays into the issues on the I-95, accidents are mostly due to a lack of “courteous driving.”
Mercure also emphasized the high number of rear-end collisions that occur as a product of distracted driving. The chief safety issues, he said, must be solved through a “social engineering solution that changes mindsets.”
Yale students who have experienced the conditions on the I-95 echoed the negative feedback from the New Haven community. Daniel Raynor ’17 said that the I-95 is “one of the worst roads [he has] ever traveled on.” He cited a study conducted by USA Today that ranked Bridgeport, Conn., No. 6 on a list of cities with the worst traffic and blamed the I-95 as the chief culprit.
Increasing police presence in the affected area, Mercure hopes, will “enforce all the laws” that drivers sometimes neglect in construction zones. For “everyone’s safety,” he encourages drivers to “give extra time for going slow” by “leaving earlier for [their] commutes.”
Tickets for misconduct on the road could run up to $300.