TOPSHAM (AP) – Traffic moved smoothly on the first morning that commuters were diverted from busy Interstate 295 to clear the way for a major 18-mile highway reconstruction project, state Department of Transportation officials said Monday.

Traffic is being diverted for 10 weeks from Interstate 295’s southbound lanes onto U.S. Route 201 or the Maine Turnpike to keep vehicles off the interstate from Gardiner to Topsham, where the work is being done.

Initial reports indicated that traffic was flowing steadily, but there appeared to be more trucks and commercial traffic on Route 201 than planners had anticipated, DOT spokeswoman Meg Lane said.

Lane also said “a high percentage” of drivers were bypassing a temporary onramp that’s been built in the Brunswick-Topsham area and continuing south.

Efforts will be intensified to encourage commercial drivers and commuters going all the way to Portland to use the turnpike in order to ease traffic on Route 201, Lane said.

Highway contractor Pike Industries will have until Aug. 30 to remove the top layer of concrete from the 36-year-old road, crush the bottom layer of concrete and repave the road with more than 180,000 tons of blacktop.

Transportation officials said that completely closing the southbound lanes of I-295 enables the contractor to work multiple crews at multiple locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the project can be done in three months rather than in stages over three years.

The DOT also says the alternate routes are clearly marked and should take no more than 15 minutes longer than traveling on I-295.

On the Net:

Maine Department of Transportation Interstate 295 rehabilitation project:

AP-ES-06-16-08 1117EDT

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