The state expects to soon finalize the award of a $43.2 million contract for long-awaited work to add speed change lanes and alleviate traffic between Exits 14 and 15 next week in Norwalk to O&G Industries of Torrington.

Work on the project, which is expected to be completed in late spring or early summer 2015 is expected to break ground in June, Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said.

Nursick said that O&G's bid was unexpectedly low relative to the $93.1 million the state estimated the project would cost, reflecting continued softness in the construction market, Nursick said.

"This is a trend we've seen continue for awhile," Nursick said.

"Perhaps the only upside of the down economy is the competitive environment for state projects and we've seen lower than expected bids for several recent projects."

The project will add a new southbound lane connecting the Route 7 off ramp at Exit 14 at Scribner Avenue in Norwalk. A northbound lane will connect Scribner Avenue to the Exit 15 Route 7 on-ramp.

The work will also widen the Exit 15 northbound exit ramp to provide two left-turn lanes and one right-turn lane, according to the plans.

The widening of the highway to improve traffic flow will require the replacement of three overpass bridges on Cedar Street, and Taylor and Fairfield avenues, which will require considerable detours.

In fall 2010, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pledged to find funding for the project, calling the stretch of I-95 the state's top bottleneck, which was harming the region's economy.

In December 2011, the State Bond Commission approved $85.6 million to perform the upgrades.

The project had been originally included in the DOT's 2010 capital budget, but money to begin it was not appropriated.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, vice chairman of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee and longtime proponent of the upgrades praised Malloy and the state for finally funding a project to improve capacity through the stretch.

The sluggish flow of traffic through the area has hurt businesses along Route 1 in Norwalk as well as further south on the I-95 corridor, Duff said.

"These are improvements which have been needed for a long time, and I know the governor is very excited to see this moving forward," Duff said.

Traffic between the two exits is often bumper-to-bumper, from mid-afternoon into the evening. A report earlier this fall by the Southwestern Regional Planning Authority measured travel during the 7 to 9 a.m. period between Exits 16 and 14 southbound at 20 mph.

Off the highway, sidewalks will also be added along Route 1 from Exit 14 northward to near Clinton Avenue to help businesses, according to the DOT's plans.

In addition to improving traffic flow, the work will also install a new drainage system starting near Exit 14 that will collect water and pull it north to a 25-foot retention basin to be built near Exit 16., or 203-964-2264.