CANAAN — Some people like the idea of the state rebuilding a two-mile stretch of U.S. Route 2 right through the middle of town.
Others, not so much.
“The road needs to be redone,” said Tim LaPlant Sr., owner of Canaan Carry Out on Main Street. “I’ve lived here since 1990, and they talked about doing it a couple different times, and it never got done. The money is already appropriated for it and the job does need to be done, there’s no question about it.”
LaPlant, with his wife, Jane, and son Tim Jr., opened their lunch stand and ice cream parlor less than three months ago. He said the prospect of the state building a sidewalk on the north side of the road all the way to the Canaan Elementary School as part of the job will improve safety. He said the work also will provide badly needed drainage along the road.
The yearlong project will include rehabilitation and full construction of the road to install new drainage catch basins and ditches for storm water runoff.
Work is set to begin in the coming weeks with the removal of trees, brush and shrubbery in order to relocate utility poles and wires along the project route.
The $3.3 million project will begin at the Skowhegan-Canaan town line near Lake George Regional Park and extend just over two miles to the junction of Route 23 at Hartland Road on the east side of town, according to Maine Department of Transportation project manager Ernie Martin.
K&K Excavation, of Turner, is the general contractor for the project.
While the travel lanes will not be widened, the road will be rebuilt and repaved, with new paved shoulders and a sidewalk on the north side of the road.
“There will be more pavement width, but the highway will seem like the road is wider because of the additional footprint of pavement; but actually it will be about the same,” Martin said. “Once the project’s done, it’s going to improve pedestrian safety with the sidewalk and crosswalks. It improves the roadway drainage and the structure of the road will be rebuilt, so when we’re done it should be a huge improvement to the downtown section as well as for the safety of the traveling public.”
Several properties west of the downtown will lose trees, shrubs and landscaped bushes, including those of Adam Huard at 104 Main St.
Huard said he will lose a large old maple tree, 14 pine trees and seven other mixed hardwood trees, all of which now act as a buffer against noise on the road.
“It’s not something I would choose or ask for, but I understand why they’re doing it,” he said. “They’ve compensated me — a few thousand. I think for what they’re taking, it’s reasonable compensation.”
Huard, a physical therapist, said he might replant the trees along the new roadside or erect a fence. He said the paved shoulder will act as a breakdown lane, which will make it easier for him to turn into his driveway during high-traffic hours.
That section of U.S. Route 2 carries an average of 5,380 cars and trucks every day, according to Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot.
Martin said the drainage in the area is the most important of the job.
“That’s a big part of the problem out there. There’s no place for the water to go, Martin said.
Martin said the financing for the job is funneled down to the state level from federal highway money, with no local tax money involved. He said the contractor will develop a traffic control program to minimize the effect on local businesses.
Martin said the entire project will affect 69 homes and businesses, including the Canaan Town Office, the fire station and the elementary school, all of which will see small strips of land turned into part of the paved shoulder of the busy road. Martin said agreements already have been made with people along the route to compensate them for the taking of land for the new paved shoulders, sidewalk and drainage.
“There will not be any full taking of property. No one’s getting relocated. We’re not buying anybody’s house or anything like that,” Martin said. “We are buying some roadside frontage to accommodate highway construction.”
He said landowners are being compensated for any land that has been taken. Payment plans are confidential, he said, but properties are evaluated and an fair offer is made to the property owners.
Brent Colbry, superintendent of School Administrative District 54, which owns the Canaan school, said the project will have minimal effect on the school’s driveway. The district was paid $500 for a 120-foot easement for new drainage and culverts, he said.
Scott Davis, owner of S&S Auto, said he is not one of those in favor of the project. He said there are other roads in central Maine that are in worse shape and could use all that state money.
“They fly fast enough past here as it is. They’re widening the road, not the travel lane; but these big trucks, the wider they see, the faster they go,” Davis said. “You pull out here, you want to be peeling tires, because they come flying and they don’t slow down. They come here 55, 60 miles an hour.”
The speed limit coming into the area is 35 mph, with a 15-mph limit near the school when the school signal is flashing.
Davis said he and several other business owners also have been forced to move their business signs to make way for the project. He said moving the signs back will make them less visible from U.S. Route 2. He said the state compensated him for moving the sign, but he wouldn’t say how much.
As for business in general during construction, Davis said people will take an alternate route and avoid the area all together, and he expects to lose business.
LaPlant and his family said the construction work and the new sidewalk in front of their place could have a mixed effect on their food business.
“It could go either way, he said. “It could help us and it could hurt us. Some of the guys working on the construction crew are definitely going to eat in town. Yeah, I think we’ll get some from that.”
The project is expected to be completed by October 2014.