AUGUSTA — About 50 people gathered at City Center Thursday to learn more about the $10.8 million in road improvements near exit 113 of Interstate 95 that will ease traffic congestion at an interchange just a little farther south.
Many of the audience members were residents of the affected north Augusta area, around Old Belgrade, Bog, Middle and Eight Rod roads, Civic Center Drive and Wilson Street.
Gisselle Hertler, of Eight Rod Road, asked about noise, water and air pollution effects of the project, among other concerns. She said a fence is the only thing that separates her property from the interstate.
“I’d love to see at least some tree buffering,” Hertler said.
Other residents raised other concerns about truck brake noise and changes in slopes.
The road work will carry Route 3 between the interstate and Civic Center Drive and is anticipated to take place in an accelerated eight month period between March or April and November or December 2013.
“Essentially the design’s locked down,” said Ernie Martin, project manager with the Maine Department of Transportation.
The project is scheduled to be completed before the opening of the regional MaineGeneral Medical Center on Old Belgrade Road. John Milbrand, construction manager for MaineGeneral Health, the hospital’s parent organization, said Thursday the hospital is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
The new road design puts traffic circles on the east and west sides of I-95 to allow exit 113 to function as a full interchange. Exit 113 now permits drivers to go only east on Route 3. Westbound motorists on Route 3 can go north or south on the interstate.
Troy Pankratz, of Ourston Roundabout Engineering, said the challenge of the project was to improve the road system for the least amount of investment. The traffic circles will allow the engineers to use much of the existing bridges that carry Old Belgrade Road across the interstate, he said.
Traffic circles have a lower crash incidence than standard intersections, he said.
John Manzer, senior highway designer with the state Department of Transportation, said work on Old Belgrade Road will result in 11-foot travel lanes and five-foot shoulders. A traffic signal will be placed at the entrance to the hospital at Medical Center Parkway.
The process of acquiring rights of way is expected to begin in about a month, transportation managers said.
Luther Yonce, right-of-way property officer with Maine transportation department, talked about blending in driveways, drainage easements, and temporary grading rights.
To do the project, the state is acquiring three homes and additional vacant property.
Yonce also noted that there is a lot of property for sale along Old Belgrade Road, and that sellers must inform buyers that the state may be taking some rights on the property.
He also noted that state property appraisers will be looking at property this spring to see what rights will be acquired.
“If you get a notice for a certified letter early summer, hope it’s from the DOT and not the IRS,” Yonce said.
Martin said the department is hoping to put the project out to bid next January.
“If there’s a way to get it out earlier, we’ll do that,” he said.
He warned that the greatest impact on residents will be when the east side traffic circle is under construction.