GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 29, 2012

Route 128's 'Little Dig' advancing in Danvers

Gloucester and other Cape Ann motorists heading to and from Danvers and Peabody shopping malls and other locations may see some changes along and off Route 128 starting Wednesday.

The North Shore's $23.1 million "Little Dig" is starting to wind down.

Robert Lee, the Danvers Department of Public Works operations director, said he heard from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that the new ramps on and off the highway would "tentatively" open midweek.

"We are projecting making the changeover from the existing configuration to the new configuration next Wednesday morning," said Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

When asked which ramps would be opening, Lee said he has been told "all of them," though it appears there is still work to be done at the off-ramp from Route 128 south to Elliott Street at State Road.

An off-ramp from Route 128 north to Route 62 has been carrying eastbound traffic since January, but it has yet to open to westbound traffic heading toward Middleton. All that may change Wednesday.

The new traffic lights on Elliot Street at the bottom of the ramps have been flashing for the past 30 days, per state law, to alert motorists of their existence, Lee said.

The long-awaited work to create new acceleration and deceleration lanes at Exit 22 (Route 62) and Exit 23 (Route 35) — both in Davnvers — began in the spring of 2010.

Clover-leaf interchanges that forced traffic to stop at the top of the ramps before merging are being replaced with ramps that allow motorists to come up to speed. The work, however, has necessitated shifting and narrowing travel lanes along Route 128 itself, to the consternation of many drivers.

The work also includes sound barriers and a large retaining wall at the northbound ramp on Route 62.

The project has had its share of detours and ramp closures. One of the most difficult turns to take has been a left on Elliott Street to get to a portion of Liberty Street that leads to Route 128 north. That portion of the street will be permanently blocked off by sound barriers and only be open to local traffic.

The project is finishing a year ahead of schedule due to accelerated work to reconstruct a bridge over an unused MBTA right of way just south of Route 35.

The creation of temporary ramps by the project's contractor, D.W. White Construction, allowed traffic to flow around the bridge while it was replaced.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by email at eforman@gloucestertimes.com.

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