SKOWHEGAN — Town officials, contractors and engineers working on a $400,000 makeover of the downtown municipal parking lot presented their plans Tuesday in a public meet-and-greet session at the Town Office.
The project, funding for which was held up in 2012 when Gov. Paul LePage put a freeze on the release of $40 million in state bonds, is set to begin May 1.
Plans to improve the municipal parking area with pedestrian walkways, lighting, trees, benches, granite curbs and directional signs will be carried out in three phases. Phase one will begin in the parking lot next the Somerset Grist Mill, High Street and a Hight auto dealership, over to the Blue Moon Lounge in the former Kennebec Valley Inn.
Jeffrey Hewett, Skowhegan’s economic and community development director, said there will be traffic detours and parking restrictions with the installation of new storm drains, sidewalk islands, light poles and curbs, but restrictions will be short-lived. Access to the Saturday farmers’ market and to the Grist Mill and the Pickup Cafe will be available only from Court Street during May.
“It’s a project to improve pedestrian safety in the downtown and also to beautify the downtown so it’s an attraction for people to come and visit Skowhegan,” Hewett said.
Phase two is scheduled for around May 30 through June 26 and will encompass an area of the parking lot from the Blue Moon to Hight and Commercial Street and will include the Chamber of Commerce office. Director Cory King said the chamber may relocate for a couple of weeks during construction. A bus stop for the Kennebec Valley Community Action bus route also will be built behind the Chamber building.
Phase three will include the municipal lot in front of the Aubuchon Hardware store and should be completed by July 11. Parking and traffic restrictions also will be in place, but foot traffic will be allowed to Aubuchon at all times.
On hand for Tuesday’s meet-and-greet with maps and plan designs were Jim Lord and Randy Butler from Dirigo Engineering, which designed the project; and Pete Callahan from Callahan Construction, of Augusta, which has been contracted to do the work. They said signs will be placed on Water Street to alert motorists — especially tractor-trailer drivers — to the construction work. Commercial Street traffic will be reduced to one lane for a couple of days in June, they said.
In all, Hewett said, the project will eliminate about 20 parking spaces, reducing the number of spaces to about 120, all with newly painted lines. Hewett and King said area businesses and property owners have been asked whether shoppers and downtown visitors can use their land for parking during construction. Possible alternative parking lots are at the Catholic church on Water Street, the lot in front of the Skowhegan Indian, on Island Avenue and across the walking bridge on the south side of the river.
The new municipal parking lot will feature pedestrian walkways and landscaping, including about 20 flowering trees and 15 hardwood trees, with several varieties of maple.
Hewett said the town has applied for a second round of funding to finish the municipal lot with new paving. Notice of the grant award is expected within the next few weeks.
For information on the project, including maps and site plans, go to www.skowhegan.org and click on Skowhegan Pedestrian Parking Lot Project.