State transportation officials have permanently removed the double-merge traffic pattern at the interchange of two of the busiest state highways, the Massachusetts Turnpike and Interstate 95.
The move comes after a trial single-merge experiment cut an average of 20 minutes from morning drivers' commuting time, according to a transportation department statement.
Last night, state workers removed the cones and barrels at the popular interchange in Weston and began striping the roadway to permanently reduce driver hesitation at the merging point, officials announced Tuesday.
As part of the trial starting July 17, officials closed a section of Interstate 95's northbound right lane to through traffic at the interchange where Massachusetts Turnpike eastbound drivers merge onto the highway. The aim was to try to reduce bottleneck traffic. The lane became dedicated to motorists coming off the eastbound turnpike and entering Interstate 95 north.
“The summer results have been encouraging, in terms of reducing traffic delays and cutting associated emissions,” said Frank DePaola, highway administrator for the state's Department of Transportation. “We have heard from members of the public, and we agree, that we need to evaluate how back-to-school volumes will impact this traffic pattern before a final decision is made to make the pattern permanent.”
The results included shaving 20 minutes off Mass Pike drivers' morning rush hour commute, although it also added one or two minutes to I-95 northbound drivers' commute, which officials said was expected because of hesitation at the cones, barrels, and digital message boards used during the trial run.
"By removing the cones, barrels, and boards, and using roadway markings to indicate the lane reduction, MassDOT expects I-95 northbound travel times to decrease slightly improve and return to a level closer to travel times before the trial started," officials said in a statement.
A third of all traffic on I-95 northbound departs at Exit 23-24-25, and a recent traffic count showed 10 percent of vehicles continuing north on I-95 use the right lane.
The new traffic pattern is part of a joint effort with the Federal Highway Administration and local planning agencies to implement low-cost changes to reduce congestion.
Driver comments are welcomed, state officials said. Visit the MassDOT blog for more information.