BRATTLEBORO -- Installing reflectors may seem like a counterintuitive way to address complaints about glare.
But administrators of the $60 million Interstate 91 bridge replacement project hope a new set of reflectors will resolve concerns expressed by motorists who said they have been partially blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights in the construction zone.
Crews have placed horizontal reflectors on the interior of concrete barriers that separate northbound and southbound highway traffic in the area. While that does not shield drivers from headlight glare, administrators believe reflectors will give drivers a much better idea of the barriers' location at night.
"We installed those based on the variety of comments we had received to try to better delineate that median barrier," said Caleb Linn, project manager for lead contractor PCL.
PCL is replacing the two aging, deteriorating I-91 spans over the West River and Route 30. As crews raze the northbound bridge, two-way traffic has been established on the southbound span.
The project, which began last year and is expected to extend into 2016, has proceeded relatively smoothly so far. But over the past few months, some drivers have submitted complaints about disorienting glare on the bridge.
Project administrators had considered placing sections of "glare screen" atop the concrete barriers to block oncoming headlights. But Linn said that solution presented problems of its own.
Installing a screen would have led to "an interstate-shutdown situation because those require bolting down," Linn said.
Installation issues aside, the screen also presented safety concerns.
"You risk those becoming projectiles in the event of an accident," Linn said.
Instead, Linn noted that "a lot of the comments we had related to the visibility of the barriers." Administrators decided that the small reflectors already on top of the barriers were not sufficient, in part due to the accumulation of winter debris and dirt.
So the new, horizontal reflectors on the interior of the barriers were the agreed-upon solution -- at least at this point. They have been used in prior Vermont highway projects, Linn said, and installation did not require shutting down I-91 for an extended period.
"We did it overnight with some help from the State Police," Linn said. "We just did very brief traffic stops."
He added that "it's a situation that we will continue to monitor."
Some drivers also have expressed concerns about glare from bright lights used for nighttime construction work on the closed northbound span. As a result, Linn said PCL has "tried to aim those lights more strategically toward our construction zone."
"We haven't had much feedback on that" since the change, he said.
More information about the bridge project, construction schedule and traffic impacts is available at www.I91BrattleboroBridge.com.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.