By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SEABROOK — Travel will soon be a little more time-consuming on Route 1 as a road widening project starts around the routes 1 and 107 intersection next month.
Set to begin May 1, the work is part of the construction of the 500,000-square-foot shopping center at the spot.
One of the busiest roadways on the seacoast, Seabrook’s stretch of Route 1 draws motorists throughout the year, eager to shop at the numerous retail stores and not be laden with a sales tax. But when warm weather brings vacationers and day-trippers to area beaches, the travel corridor can turn into a motorists’ nightmare, especially during commuting hours.
The first and last New Hampshire exit on Interstate 95, Seabrook’s Route 107 exit is a prime spot for travelers who want to avoid the expense at the Hampton toll booth, located at Exit 2. Many heading north leave I-95 in Seabrook to continue their trip on Route 1 until they reach their destination or reconnect with the interstate after the toll.
In the reverse, many drive south on Route 1 until they get to Seabrook, accessing I-95 off the Route 107 exit, again, to avoid the toll.
On hot beach days or during weekends, that scenario, coupled with normal seacoast tourist-season traffic, can turn parts of routes 1 and 107 in Seabrook into gridlock.
But the off-site road improvements slated to take place between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. begin Wednesday are part of the conditions the town set before it approved the mall being constructed by Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty. The location of the mall is a stone’s throw from the town’s busiest intersection at routes 1 and 107.
The portion of Route 1 in front of the coming retail outlet’s main entrance will be made larger, as will Provident Way, which provides a second access point to the plaza.
Wednesday’s construction is in addition to similar work on the Route 107 bridge that has been going on for about a year. When completed, the two-lane bridge will grow to five lanes with sidewalks, and its exit and entrance ramps to I-95 will also be improved.
The improvements will hopefully not only alleviate the increase in traffic the mall was projected to bring — which was estimated to be as much as 1,700 new cars per hour — but it will also help with the current traffic problems.
“This is ultimately good for the town, and when this is all over, things will be better,” Seabrook police Chief Lee Bitomske said. “But while it’s going on, things are going to get a little rough. We’re hoping drivers will be patient.”