AUGUSTA — City officials are frustrated because what they thought was a state plan to resurface potholed, bone-jarring Mount Vernon Avenue this summer probably won’t take place for another year.
The broken and cracked pavement on some parts of the road won’t make it another winter if not repaired, according to the city staff.
However, state officials said they don’t consider the project to be delayed, at least not significantly. They are willing to work with the city to get what’s left of the road surface through another winter and until the construction work gets underway on the resurfacing in the summer of 2015.
City Manager William Bridgeo said he and others at a public hearing about the project last September were told it would be put out to bid in May this year, with construction to take place through the remainder of 2014.
More recently, Bridgeo said the city staff, including Public Works Director Lesley Jones, was told by Department of Transportation officials the project won’t be put out to bid until later in 2014, with construction unlikely to commence until December and continuing into the summer of 2015.
“I have to interpret that as the schedule slipping significantly,” Bridgeo said Tuesday. “We were assured this problem would be resolved in 2014.”
Ernie Martin, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, acknowledged he, at the September public hearing, “optimistically said if everything went well, we could possibly get ready to advertise in May”; but he said now it appears the project won’t be advertised for bids until October.
He said tasks including mapping the public utility infrastructure in the area, working with the city and the Greater Augusta Utility District on the final design, and lining up the needed easements has slowed the project and likely means most construction won’t take place until 2015.
“I wouldn’t classify it as a delay,” Martin said. “There have been some hurdles that have come up, which add time and process to any project we do. If it was easy, it would have been done 20 years ago.”
Bridgeo said Jones, a civil engineer, advised him the road surface won’t survive another winter.
Martin said the state might be willing to work with the city to get the road through until the resurfacing project, possibly including putting a skim coat of new pavement on some of road.
Bridgeo said Sen. Roger Katz and Rep. Matt Pouliot, both Augusta Republicans, asked on the city’s behalf that Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt come to Thursday’s council meeting to discuss the issue.
But Ted Talbot, spokesman for the department, said the commissioner won’t attend the meeting, because he has other commitments that night. Talbot said he didn’t expect other DOT officials to attend, either.
He said Bernhardt planned to speak directly with Bridgeo about the project and its schedule.
Bridgeo said the city has a good working relationship with state transportation officials, which he anticipates will continue.
“I think the problem in part here is there is an expectation placed upon DOT to work miracles, without sufficient funds, in a timely fashion, to do that,” Bridgeo said.
One thing city and state officials agree on is the need for the project.
“I drive it myself. It’s not a great road; I get it,” Martin said of Mount Vernon Avenue. “That’s not going to change until we get out there and start digging. We’ll get through this together. It’s going to be a good project.”
Included in the $2 million project are plans to resurface 1.54 miles of Mount Vernon Avenue and Civic Center Drive, roughly between Bond Brook and the University of Maine at Augusta entrance. The project also will add some drainage and rebuild sidewalks on part of the road. The section from a fuel depot near Augusta Florist to Bond Brook will undergo a more significant rehabilitation than the northern end of the project area, Martin said.
Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center to discuss the Mount Vernon Avenue project and:
â€¢ discuss a school board request for a referendum question for residents to consider removing the requirement that the school superintendent live in Augusta,
â€¢ hear an update on the local warming shelter,
â€¢ discuss a proposal to let some businesses in the city make donations to receive a transferable pass to the city-owned Bicentennial Nature Park they could allow employees to use,
â€¢ discuss the reapportionment of the boundaries between the city’s four voting wards, and
â€¢ discuss rezoning on Mount Vernon Avenue.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647 firstname.lastname@example.org