It all started with a major traffic accident that took the lives of four people.
On July 29, 2005, a dump truck with a history of brake violations barreled into traffic at the busy intersection of U.S. Routes 44 and 10 in Avon, CT. The truck crushed cars, setting off a chain of fiery collisions that killed four people and injured 14.
Two years later on September 7, 2007, another serious accident at the same intersection prompted Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell to order the construction of a 700-foot truck escape ramp — a $2.8-million contract awarded to Bourgeois & Shaw of Simsbury, CT. The escape ramp will be the first of its kind built in Connecticut.
Construction began on the escape ramp just two months after the second accident and progressed through an aggressive work schedule that included the construction of retaining walls, concrete barrier curb and a state-of-the-art Dragnet Vehicle Arresting Barrier System. The system consists of a series of fiber arresting nets and cables that are attached to self-contained, energy-absorbing units designed to safely stop a vehicle.
The project affected five private properties along Route 44 — two of which CTDOT purchased to provide the proper right of way for the ramp. The other three property owners were compensated for the pieces of their properties required for the project.
The road in that area was only a one-way both ways, which was a dangerous situation at the light at the bottom of the hill. It wasn't long before the decision was made to widen and straighten Route 44 — approximately 500 feet east of the intersection and 1.4 miles to the Avon/W. Hartford line. The $13.2-million contract was awarded to Spazzarini Construction Company, Inc. from Enfield, CT, under the direction of the CTDOT District 4 Construction Office.
The project reconstructs Route 44 to soften existing curves east of Pine Tree Lane and west of Montevideo Road. It will construct a planted median between the Avon/West Hartford town line and Pine Tree Lane, and a textured median from Pine Tree Lane to the western project limits.
This median will provide separation between opposing vehicles with a cable median barrier system through the curved sections. The project also includes the closure of the existing intersection between Route 44 and Montevideo Road in conjunction with a new connection from Montevideo Road to Parsons Way.
Other project improvements include restricting access at the eastern junction of Pine Tree Lane to right-only turns, various drainage and guide rail upgrades, and widening of the existing narrow shoulders.
The first stage of construction includes installation of construction signs, surveying and layout work, and tree-clearing operations along Route 44. During this first stage, the contractor will begin construction of catch basins and drainage structure installations at various locations along Route 44 westbound.
Once these installations are complete, Spazzarini will start construction on the new box culverts and drainage channels along the westbound side of Route 44 at Pine Tree Lane.
During this stage of construction, temporary concrete barrier curbs will be installed along Route 44 westbound, permanently closing the right lane in the vicinity of Pine Tree Lane.
After the ramp was built and before winter set in, E.A. Quinn Landscaping of Glastonbury, CT, completed the planting and landscaping to provide erosion control.
"We did approximately 14 acres of stabilization including stockpiles of waste that they needed to lock up for the winter," said Joey Seybold, erosion control manager at E.A. Quinn. "We used a hydroseeding Finn T330 machine which we ran 20 loads of 100-percent wood fiber mix through. The hydroseeder holds 3,300 gallons of water, 1,000 pounds of wood fiber and 80 pounds of tackifier mixed in with wood fiber and sprayed at 2,000 pounds per acre."
Seybold said the process consists of bare soil, followed by 4-inch deposit of straw and then completed with 2,000 pounds of wood mix spray.
"Our job was to prevent the soil from traveling down into the swales that they built to prevent clogging of the wetland area. Come springtime, they will tear up what we did in the fall and build the road. Then we will do the final seed on the back side of the project. The entire roadway will be planted."
Steve Virgadaula said biggest challenge with the project was dealing with the large volume of traffic.
"In most cases, our large trucks are parked along the breakdown lane when performing our job tasks," Virgadaula said. "Traffic up the mountain is typically bumper to bumper through the construction area. When operating the hydroseed truck, it generates a lot of curiosity."