AUGUSTA — New directional and route signs are going up along sections of OId Belgrade Road, but lines of the orange-and-white striped barrels will continue to flank the roads around the Interstate 95 exit 113 construction in the northwest part of the city as paving and other work continues all day and occasionally at night.

The work is on time and within the $13 million budget, but the barrels will remain beyond the Nov. 8 opening date as the final touches are put in place, according to Shawn Smith, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation.

The federal, state and city governments as well as MaineGeneral Medical Center, which has built a hospital next to exit 113, are funding the project. The work is aimed at allowing exit 113 to function in all directions and to connect Route 3 with Civic Center Drive, thus decreasing traffic congestion at exit 112. The new regional hospital, which also is beside the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, is scheduled to open for patients Nov. 9.

“Right now we’re on target for the Nov. 8 deadline,” Smith said. “That’s only signals operational and roundabouts done. There will still be some cleanup at the various intersections.”

The project includes the creation of two roundabouts on both sides of the interstate, and traffic already is traveling on areas of the east roundabout now that paving is complete there.

The exit lanes for northbound 1-95 traffic are in their permanent locations.

“Right now our big focus is getting the paving down,” Smith said. “It doesn’t look there is a substantial lot of paving left to do, but there really is. Smaller pulls with the paver take a lot of time.”

The paving pace has picked up as the temperatures have dropped. “The air temperature has to be 50 degrees and rising to pave,” Smith said. Paving was expected to continue through today.

The current focus is on the west side roundabout. Smith said the latter has to be completed in order to move traffic onto that and off Old Belgrade Road, which is being linked into that roundabout.

The temporary traffic patterns in the area, designed to allow construction to continue while motorists make headway, seems labyrinthine in places. Flaggers help drivers cut through much of the confusion, but when they leave, driving through the area requires especially close attention and a snail’s pace.

Both Smith and Ted Talbot, spokesman for the state transportation department urge motorists to use caution in the area, to be alert to the new traffic patterns and to be aware that some people might be confused at first.

“There will certainly be a learning curve,” Smith said.

Smith said all the streetlights are in place and the traffic signals along Route 3 at the hospital entrance and at Civic Center Drive should be in operation the first week of November. They are set to a flashing mode now.

Some sidewalks have yet to be installed as well as a bicycle/multi-use path near the hospital, Smith said.

Smith said the project has generated few complaints but a number of questions from residents about how their driveways will connect to new roadways, about drainage and about how the area will be left.

“We’ve had some complaints about traffic backups, and from property owners, about the long hours and weekends,” he said.

The new road network, with the two new roundabouts, will not appear automatically on most GPS/navigational aids. It has to be programmed in, apparently.

Early last summer, TomTom, which bills itself as “the world’s leading supplier of in-car location and navigation products and services,” asked the state provide it with the new road design.

“They will send out an update for next year,” Smith said. “I would assume that the other providers would be doing the same thing.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]