SKOWHEGAN — State highway officials have agreed to modify their plans for a new entrance to Hilton Hill Road from state Route 150, north of downtown, but it might not be enough to satisfy local residents.
“We plan to make some changes at the intersection — the intersection still is going to come out at the same location, but the concern was that there is no area to slow down and brake,” state Department of Transportation project manager Steve Bodge said Monday.
Bodge said construction crews will “curl” the guardrail back from its current location, where the Route 150 bridge ends, making room for vehicles to slow down.
Bob Ashley, who was among the 40 or so residents who expressed safety concerns at a public meeting last week, said Monday the changes are not enough. He said residents want a separate, right-turning lane to safely slow down.
“So what has it cured? Nothing,” Ashley said. “We need a break-down lane. Somebody’s going to get hurt down there — how can they not?”
Residents said that since the sharp turn they would have to make off Route 150 comes immediately after a bridge, there is not enough room to slow down to make the turn. They said the road is used by tractor trailers, including logging trucks, and they fear the new design will lead to an accident.
Bodge said design changes also include widening the intersection by five feet for traffic coming down the hill, where the road meets Route 150.
“Basically, what we’ve done is make a nice wide mouth there, expecting that they can use some of that as a slow-down area, if there is a tractor trailer truck on their backside,” Bodge said.
The project first was announced in May and work began this summer. Bodge said the added cost for the changes will come from the original amount budgeted for the project. The $384,000 project also includes removal of an old bridge on Hilton Hill Road that is deteriorating. The main bridge on Route 150 will remain.
Residents said school buses, delivery trucks and other vehicles with trailers will have to make a wide turn into the oncoming lane of traffic to make it onto Hilton Hill and will have trouble navigating the turn when the bridge freezes.
They suggested contractors move the new entrance to Hilton Hill north, about 100 feet and add a right-side turning lane so vehicles can safely slow down before making the turn. That’s not going to happen, Bodge said.
“There’s not going to be a separate lane at this time,” he said Monday. “We felt that the changes would accommodate what the people are looking for.”
In addition, residents said the new road on the hill is much steeper with the construction, making a tough assent in winter even tougher. Bodge said there are no proposed changes in the slope of the hill.
Resident Janet McCollor told DOT officials last week that her well, septic system, driveway and yard were damaged by the construction and the department has been unresponsive to her complaints.
Bodge said DOT officials were scheduled to meet with McCollor Monday afternoon.
Bodge said there has not been another public meeting scheduled, but if residents need clarification on the changes, town officials can request another meeting.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367