Lane opening beckons commuters on Route 3

Southbound commuters should find the drive to work a little less hectic this morning, with seven miles of an extra lane to work with.

A stretch of the new third lane on southbound Route 3 from the New Hampshire line to just north of Exit 32 in Chelmsford, Mass., is expected to be open prior to the morning commute, according to Matt Watkins, spokesman for Modern Continental, the construction firm for the road-widening project.

The $385 million project to add 21 miles of a third lane in both directions was approved in August 2000, Watkins said. This is the third stretch to be opened since construction began in April 2001, he said.

A third lane for the same seven miles on the northbound side of the highway opened just prior to Labor Day, he said.

Two weeks ago, a second stretch was opened on the southbound side from Route 62 in Bedford, Mass., to the Route 128 (Interstate 95) interchange, he said.

Watkins said crews are expected to open the third lane for the remaining 14 miles on the northbound side in the next two weeks.

The work was supposed to be completed in February, and Modern Continental is being fined $10,000 a day by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for each day the project is unfinished.