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Commuters beware: work begins on Route 3 Tuesday

The 4-mile stretch of Route 3 between the Route 18 exit in Weymouth and the Braintree split was last resurfaced in 1998.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff/2013 file

The 4-mile stretch of Route 3 between the Route 18 exit in Weymouth and the Braintree split was last resurfaced in 1998.

There’s some good news and some bad news for commuters who have been dodging the deepening potholes on the stretch of Route 3 between the Braintree split and Weymouth.

The good news is that repaving will start Tuesday night on the battered 4 miles of state highway between the Route 18 exits in Weymouth and the Braintree split, where Route 3 connects with Interstate 93.

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The road was last resurfaced in 1998 for about $6.5 million, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. About 2 miles of the southbound middle lane between exits 16 and 17 was repaved in December 2011, at a cost of about $233,000.

The bad news is that the new $12.1 million construction project isn’t expected to end until the late fall of 2015, said DOT spokesman Michael Verseckes. And during that time, motorists can anticipate lane closings and delays — although mostly overnight during non-peak commuter hours, he said.

“The pavement quality along this stretch of Route 3 is in serious need of repair,” said DOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. “We look forward to getting this work started and improving the commutes of our customers who rely on this stretch of roadway.”

Verseckes said the road was in poor condition from age, wear and tear, and “exposure to the elements.” He said asphalt roads usually last from 12 to 15 years, and deteriorate more quickly as they near the end of their useful life.

To minimize disruption to the morning and evening commutes and weekend vacation travel, the repaving work will be done between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sunday evenings through Friday mornings, Verseckes said.

No detours are planned; while lanes will be closed, the highway will remain open, he said.

Besides repaving the section of Route 3 in both directions, the project also includes resurfacing the ramps at exit 16 for Route 18 in Weymouth and exit 17 for Union Street in Braintree, drainage improvements, guardrail upgrades, and bridge repairs to the five bridges within the area, Verseckes said.

He said the bridge work would take place on weekends and lead to lane closures for up to 36 hours at a time.

Route 3 is one of two major commuter roads south of Boston, and the section being repaired served an average 131,271 vehicles a day in 2013, the latest data available, according to Verseckes.

“It is very heavily traveled,” he said. “We have to do the work off peak because we have to share the road with commuters.”

The goal is to improve conditions for those using Route 3. But the initial phase of the project will create bumpy riding as the old asphalt is “milled,” or ripped off, Verseckes acknowledged.

“The milling takes two and a half weeks in each direction and [leaves] a rough surface,” he said.

The plan calls for stripping the old asphalt away in both directions, putting down one layer of new asphalt, and then coming back in the spring to apply two more layers, he said.

He said the exact timing of the work would depend on the weather, since asphalt needs both warm temperatures and low humidity. In fact, asphalt is not available in the colder months because the asphalt plants close then – usually from mid-November till spring, he said.

The contractor is Aggregrate Industries of Woburn, which, according to its webpage, previously repaved Route 3 from Quincy to Weymouth and also has worked on I-95, Route 128, and I-495.

According to Verseckes, the contract says that crews can close a single lane of Route 3 at 8 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights. Two lanes can be closed at 10 p.m., “or at a later time dependent upon traffic conditions.” And an additional lane may be closed after midnight.

“At no time will the entire highway be closed,” he said, with breakdown lanes pressed into duty as necessary.

The contract allows weekend work to perform bridge deck repairs, and traffic will be scaled back then to a single lane, Verseckes said. The deck repairs “require a 36-hour lane closure, therefore scheduled weekend bridge work will be at the discretion of the contractor so as to have all lanes open by 5 a.m. Monday,” he said.

A spokesman for the Weymouth Police Department said the town had not made any special arrangements to deal with vehicles using local roads to avoid the construction. “We don’t expect there to be a lot of traffic; it’s late at night,” the spokesman said.

Braintree Police Chief Russ Jenkins said he anticipated some extra local traffic, but “I don’t expect that people will be using Braintree roads to get from point A to point B, and completely circumventing the highway. Hopefully, traffic will be managed well enough to keep [it] moving. That said, we will be closely monitoring traffic and making adjustments as needed.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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