AUGUSTA — Construction crews and concrete forms are giving shape to a new headquarters for the Maine National Guard in a formerly wooded area between Civic Center Drive and the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

They’ll soon be joined by still more contractors for a related state Department of Transportation project to create a new, four-way intersection with a traffic signal on Civic Center Drive at Darin Drive. The to-be-realigned Blue Star Avenue will provide access to the cemetery, new Guard headquarters, the Comfort Inn motel and Ninety Nine Restaurant.

The new intersection is needed to accommodate the expected increase in traffic in the already busy commercial area.

The new Army and Air Guard headquarters, when complete, is expected to put an additional 208 vehicles on Civic Center Drive during the peak morning weekday commuting hour and 200 during the evening peak weekday commute, according to a traffic study submitted as part of the Augusta Planning Board’s approval process for the new, 100,000-square-foot, two-story Guard headquarters building.

Construction of the new Guard headquarters began in August of last year and is expected to be complete in the fall of 2017, according to Lt. Col. Norm Michaud.

Construction of the new intersection will go out to bid next month and likely start in July, according to Brian Keezer, project manager for the state Department of Transportation. He said it should be complete this fall, though contractors may need to return next spring to finish up loaming and other detail work.

Officials hope to improve safety in the area with the new intersection and another change to the Interstate 95 southbound offramp nearby.

Blue Star Avenue, which now provides access to the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, will be realigned so it meets Civic Center Drive opposite Darin Drive, creating a four-way intersection with a traffic signal. It will have left-turning lanes, also with signals, for motorists turning from Civic Center Drive onto Darin Drive or Blue Star Avenue.

The intersection will also provide new access to the Comfort Inn and Ninety Nine Restaurant from the realigned access road to the cemetery and Guard headquarters. The existing access directly onto Civic Center Drive for those businesses will remain, but be limited to right-in, right-out only, Keezer said, with motorists looking to turn left in or out using the new intersection.

Nearby, the state also plans changes to the southbound Interstate 95 offramp, eliminating a “slip lane” motorists now coming off the Interstate toward Belgrade use, and instead moving those motorists to the existing traffic light used now by traffic coming off the Interstate and heading toward downtown Augusta and the Marketplace at Augusta. That intersection comes to a T and will require motorists to stop, while the existing slip lane allows motorists heading toward Belgrade to merge with traffic, which some motorists, Keezer said, do at a high rate of speed creating the potential for accidents.

“That’ll be reconstructed so (motorists coming off southbound Interstate 95 toward Belgrade) will come in at a T at the signal there now,” Keezer said. “It will force people to slow down.”

The new, $32 million Guard headquarters under construction now will be accessed off Blue Star Avenue with a permanent gatehouse and two separate entrances controlling access to the site. One entrance will be for Guard employees who will swipe a security card to gain access, while the other, at a likely staffed gatehouse, will be for visitors.

The outline of the new building is visible on the ground at the location now with foundation work to begin soon. Grayish engineered fill has been poured on much of the site to level it out. The material is lighter than traditional fill to prevent settling and to allow for construction on top of it sooner, according to Mary Beth Van Keuren, the owner’s representative on the job.

Michaud said the site has been cleared and brought up to sub-grade, and underground utilities have been installed. Foundation work is expected to start in the spring, steel will likely start going up in June, and workers hope to have the exterior walls and roof up by winter.

Michaud said the Guard expects to occupy the building in the winter of 2018.

The new facility will be named Camp Chamberlain after former Maine governor, adjutant general and Civil War hero Joshua L. Chamberlain.

It will be home to senior Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel specializing in human resources, intelligence, operations, logistics, resource guidance and support to the major commands in the Maine National Guard, according to Maj. Norman J. Stickney, public affairs officer.

About 260 people will work there.

Camp Keyes, the Guard’s current headquarters, will remain open. Guard operations to remain at Camp Keyes, according to Stickney, will include family and veterans outreach services, ground maintenance support, printing plant operations, training sites and resource management, shipping and receiving, and facilities maintenance.

“We’re all looking forward to a new facility,” Stickney said. “To have a new, state-of-the-art facility does a lot for the community and (Guard) members alike.”

Van Keuren said between 35 and 40 workers are on the Camp Chamberlain site regularly now with about 100 workers expected on the site daily this summer as construction increases.

Michaud said the project is on schedule and progressing well. He said they’ve encountered only a small amount of ledge, which was expected, on the site.

Nickerson & O’Day Inc., of Brewer, is the general contractor on the project.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj