WATERVILLE — People who live in the area of Trafton, Eight Rod and West River roads had plenty of questions for state officials Monday night about a $3 million-plus reconstruction project for Trafton Road expected to start in 2019.

With the new interchange at Trafton Road and Interstate 95 having been completed in July, they said, traffic is much heavier on those roads and people speed to get to and from work. They wanted to know if the speed limit can be lowered to 35 mph from the current 45 mph on Trafton Road.

“It’s unbelievable,” Phil Crandlemire, of West River Road, said of the speeding. “It’s like a race track.”

Ernie Martin, senior project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said he could not answer the question right away about whether the speed limit could be changed, but he would look into it.

About 20 residents, city and DOT officials turned out in the council chambers for the session, at which Martin said the Trafton Road reconstruction project is a priority. It would be done on about a mile stretch, from the interchange ramp to West River Road.

The road now is not built to any standard, and the department plans to change that and build 11-foot travel lanes with 4-foot shoulders and correct any horizontal or vertical problems.

Nick Hartley of DOT said the road now has 20 feet of pavement and the proposed change would increase that to 22 feet of travel lane and eight feet of shoulder. Sags in the road would be filled in and crests would be cut off, he said. Drainage improvements and some ditching also would be done, he said. Martin said the wider shoulders will be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Though the city did not help fund the interchange, its share of the road reconstruction will be $500,000.

City Councilor Nick Champagne, R-Ward 5, also asked Martin about the speed limit and other issues, saying he wanted to serve as a liaison between the city and DOT and he knew residents will have questions. He wanted to know how to start the process for requesting the speed limit be lowered to 35 mph.

“You’ve kind of already started that process tonight,” Martin said.

Crandlemire wanted to know how low culverts will be place in the road, as some have been put in so low that water is not flowing adequately through them.

“We’re not getting the same flow we had when I was a kid,” he said.

Martin said the culverts would be placed at the natural stream bottom.

Michael Donihue, of Trafton Road, asked if traffic counts were being done on Kennedy Memorial Drive, as officials said one of the reasons the interchange was built was to help divert traffic from that road because it was so congested there.

While Martin said it is too early to say, it is one of the things DOT is working on.

City Manager Michael Roy said the police department since Oct. 16 has been doing speed enforcement on Trafton and Eight Rod roads. On Nov. 8, from 3:20 p.m. to 4:20 p.m., 40 vehicles traveled on Eight Rod Road and the high speed for those vehicles was 47 mph and the average speed, 38, according to Roy. On Nov. 3, police did enforcement from 4:30 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. and 28 vehicles traveled the road, with the average speed, 42 mph, he said.

“We’re going to keep stationing people out there…” he said.

Meanwhile, a sign the city bought for $1,500 to monitor traffic broke and could not be fixed, so the City Council will be asked Nov. 21 to approve spending about $4,500 for a new one, according to Roy. The sign will give city officials a lot more data about number of vehicles and the speed at which they travel. The sign would be moved from road to road.

Resident Linda Woodside said when some vehicles come from Oakland and hit a flat spot on Trafton Road and then a hill near her house, they travel about 60 mph.

“They just floor it,” she said.

City councilors on Oct. 17 voted unanimously to approve a tax increment financing district and related development plan for Trafton Road. The TIF would encompass three lots totaling 144 acres and is designed to help create jobs and expand the tax base, according to city officials.

Before the new $5 million Interstate 95 interchange at Trafton Road was built, the city entered into an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and the developer, Trafton Properties, that the city would help rebuild Trafton Road. The TIF will allow the city to capture new tax dollars for that area and fund its share of the cost of rebuilding the road which is $500,000. State and federal money would fund the rest.

Trafton Properties, which provided major funding for the interchange, already has a building that is fully occupied with businesses at the corner of Trafton and West River roads. That 227,000-square-foot building is the former Wyandotte Mill. Trafton Properties owns 921 acres in Sidney and Waterville. In August the company got approval from the city’s Planning Board to build next to the former mill a 120,000-square-foot commercial building to house new businesses.

At Monday’s meeting, resident Susan Mackenzie said not everyone wants urban development. She said she understands why development and expanding the tax base is important, but if people who enjoy the rural lifestyle are pushed, they will leave the city.

“Any one of us could move to Sidney and Oakland,” she said.

Amy Gilbert, of Trafton Road, said she did not want to hear in the future about the Trafton Road area being the last place for business development expansion in the city, as there is plenty of space on Airport Road, Industrial Road and College Avenue.

“You’ve got a gazillion places — nobody’s coming,” she said.

Meanwhile, Martin noted that Summit Natural Gas has said it will put pipes in the area starting as early as next spring.

Roy said Trafton Road is now a state-aid road, which means the state will be responsible for capital improvements, but the city will continue to plow and sand it.

Crandlemire wanted to know if winter road maintenance will be stepped up, now that there is more traffic on the roads.

He said that on a hill near his house, at least 6 vehicles per year strike deer or slide off the road when there’s black ice there.

“That hill right there is a death trap,” he said.

The city’s public works director, Mark Turner, said he is planning on increasing the level of service there. Woodside said snow drifts into the road on the west side of the interchange on Trafton Road sometimes, making it difficult for vehicles to pass.

“There’ll be increased level of service out there, in all areas,” Turner said.

Roy said it is important that residents report such problems to the city.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17