AUGUSTA — Part of Mount Vernon Avenue will be one-way only next year during a major reconstruction project that has just started on the road.
State Department of Transportation officials told those at a public hearing Tuesday that the south end of the road is too narrow for construction to take place and still allow two-way traffic.
The two-year project on the road, which is Route 27 and a major northern gateway into the city, has just started and reconstruction is scheduled to take place next year.
Rather than have alternating one-way traffic through that tight section when it is reconstructed in 2015, Ernie Martin, project manager for the transportation department, said the state plans to limit traffic there to one-way. The one-way section would be from Boothby Street to the south, where the road becomes State Street, to the fuel depot just south of Augusta Florist.
Martin said which way traffic will go has not yet been determined, and businesses on the street will be consulted before a final direction is chosen.
John Babb, owner of J&S Oil, which has a gas station and convenience store on Mount Vernon Avenue just north of the section that Martin said will be one-way, asked why the road couldn’t be one-way in one direction in the morning, and the opposite direction later in the day, based upon which direction had the most traffic.
Martin said switching back and forth could cause confusion for both the contractor and motorists, but said department would look into it.
Transportation department officials have already met with business owners along the road who said they’re concerned about the impact of the construction on their businesses.
The complex project involves replacing underground water and sewer pipes, crumbling sidewalks and retaining walls, and broken and battered pavement, between Boothby Street and the entrance to the University of Maine at Augusta.
Work started this week on the first of two phases of work and likely won’t be complete until late fall 2015.
Martin said the project is primarily state and federally funded and budgeted to cost about $2 million.
About 30 people attended the public hearing.
State officials plan to do a major rehabilitation of the road surface in the summer of 2015, but city officials worried much of the pavement that’s there won’t make it that long because several sections broke into pieces over the winter.
After discussions between city and transportation department staff, officials agreed to place a temporary layer of pavement on the worst section of Mount Vernon Avenue, between the bridge over Bond Brook and a fuel depot near where the road widens from two lanes to three started this week. Martin said it could be completed this week if the weather cooperates.
The state will be back in the summer of 2015 to take on the more extensive rebuild of the road from Boothby Street to UMA.
Ethan Flynn, a designer for the transportation department, said the lower part of the road — the south end that turns into State Street at Boothby Street — was originally built in the 1930s and the upper part, which eventually becomes Civic Center Drive, in the 1950s. The last resurfacing was in 1992.
Luther Yonce, a right of way expert with the transportation department, said most of the project will take place within the existing right of way, but some work may require parts of some property to be negotiated for by the state.
He said drainage work is needed to help prevent water coming from the uphill side from running into the roadway, much of it originating from past development further up the hill.
He said state law forbids property owners from allowing water to flow into public roads from their property, but added “there is another law, the law of gravity, and we know water is going to come down that hill, so we’ll do what we can to take care of that for you.”
Sy Gilbert, a property owner on the road, said water coming down the hill is probably a major reason the road surface has deteriorated as much as it has.
State transportation, city and Greater Augusta Utility District officials have broken the project into three sections.
Work this summer, which started this week, will include temporary resurfacing on the worst southernmost section, as well as a shim coat of pavement on the northern end of the project area. That will provide both a temporary smooth surface, but it also will be used as a base coat for a planned final coat of new pavement to be put down in the summer of 2015, as part of the larger road reconstruction.
In the middle section of the project area, roughly from the fuel depot to the former Dostie’s Garage, north of the Bond Brook Mini-Mall, the utilities district will have a contractor working this summer to do water and sewer pipe work, including switching services on older eight-inch water lines over to newer 16-inch lines. That work also started this week.
Brian Tarbuck, superintendent of Greater Augusta Utility District, said the most involved work will take place at night, as traffic will be limited to one lane through the construction, for about a week. He said business owners on the road made it clear only one lane being open during the day was unacceptable to them.
Tarbuck said the district considered waiting until 2015 to do the work as part of the larger state rebuild, but it decided, after consulting with the state, that could make the 2015 work too complicated. So they’re doing it at the beginning of this summer.
After about a week of night work, the remaining work isn’t expected to require lane closures, and it will take place during the day, Tarbuck said, using horizontal drilling methods.
The middle section won’t be paved this summer, other than where the utilities district digs trenches in the road, which will be paved over. That section will be paved fully in the summer of 2015, with the rest of the project area.
Water and sewer mains on the project area’s southern section also will be replaced in 2015, in conjunction with the state work, and drainage will be improved in the area.
Summit Natural Gas, which is building a pipeline through the area, said if it gets enough interest, it will install a gas line along the road during the construction. If there isn’t enough interest, the installation would be put off for at least five years.
Martin said state and city officials initially thought the entire section of Mount Vernon Avenue being worked on could be accomplished as a relatively quick “mill and fill” grinding and repaving project.
They soon learned it would be much more compicated than that as they worked on the design of the project.
Martin said sidewalks in the area are so badly deteriorated, and short of meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements in providing access to people with disabilities, they have to be replaced; retaining walls on the southern end of the project, where houses are within a few feet of the road, are in very poor condition and nearing collapse; drainage is inadequate and in poor condition; and some of the underground pipes need to be replaced.
Projected traffic on the road is about 13,000 a day, officials have said. Flynn said the projected average daily traffic on the street for 2026, the end of the life of the project, is 15,000 cars. At evening peak rush hour, about 1,500 vehicles travel the road.
He said there were 43 crashes on the road in the last three years, 13 of them involving injury.
Martin said once the final construction plan is set another informational meeting will be held.
Keith Edwards – 621-5647 | [email protected] | Twitter: @kedwardskj