AUGUSTA — Just about any child would be thrilled to watch the more than 30 heavy construction vehicles, including excavators, tractor shovels, bulldozers, dump trucks, cranes and pile drivers work at the new hospital site in Augusta.

It’s pretty impressive to adults, too.

The site is the largest construction project under way in central Maine and will result in a new 192-bed hospital for MaineGeneral Medical Center, with an address of 35 Medical Center Parkway.

The new building, expected to open in summer 2014, will be 10 times the size of the adjacent Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care.

Work started at the site in early August. Now, it’s a race against weather.

“Our goal here is to get as much stuff in the ground as we can before it freezes,” said John Milbrand, construction manager for MaineGeneral Health, the hospital’s parent organization.


The 192 beds of the new hospital will each be in private rooms, and will replace inpatient operations at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer campus in Waterville, as well as all operations at the South Chestnut Street hospital in Augusta.

The entire hospital project, including financing, is estimated at $412 million and includes $10 million in improvements at the Thayer campus.

Earlier this week some 150 workers — all wearing safety equipment, including fluorescent-colored vests and hard hats — labored over myriad jobs. At the height of the project, managers estimate about 400 people will be working there at once.

This week, workers completed one side of a faux-cribwork, steel arch bridge that will carry all vehicles over Stone Brook and up to the parking areas and emergency entrance of the new hospital. Following a theme of recycling, this was the original driveway entrance when the property was once a farm.

Large boulders that had to be removed from the building site and parking areas will be incorporated later into the landscaping.

A second, similar bridge nearby is to be constructed before the year’s end. That will carry a narrower road to the hospital and will be open only as an alternate route in emergencies.


The road across the almost completed bridge of Redi-Rock cobblestone wends up to “COLO 2” — a large construction headquarters formed by attaching 14 trailers. The inside is warm, well-lit and spacious, with desks in open areas and small conference rooms.

One of the those rooms is set up with a video for safety training, a requirement for anyone who comes on the site.

Back outside at the hospital building site itself, workers used a torch to slice 50-foot-long hollow steel pipe being driven into the ground by a pile driver that works sometimes seven days a week. A dull metallic clang resounded each time the diesel-driven hammer pounded it.

The pile driving has reached the halfway mark. More than 400 columns have been driven into the ground since mid-September. The project calls for 825 of them to anchor the 640,000-square-foot building.

“We’re hoping to wrap up in six or eight weeks,” said John Scott, vice president of the Winthrop-based H.P. Cummings Construction Company. “When the ground freezes we stop putting pipe in the ground.”

Nearby, concrete was being poured into forms to create walls that would rise from a ground floor terrace level.


The project leaders say they have received few complaints from neighbors. One person wanted the dust kept down, and another person asked for a reduction in noise from truck braking systems.

For those who want to see the construction themselves, the best view from off-site is from Old Belgrade Road, at the parking lot of the cancer center, and from the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 between Sidney and Augusta.

The job site is active 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this season, with some workers arriving earlier to pump water from the low spots. A large wooden building erected near the interstate serves provide some shelter and warmth for workers who will want to warm up and eat lunch during the winter.

A surveyor took measurements near an area where a dozen workers scrambled over and around concrete foundation wall, which appeared to be more than two-stories tall. The ground floor will house the food service area and open onto a terrace.

Dozens of dump trucks carried dirt and other material on and off the site.

“We’ve dug up, re-spread or hauled off 200,000 cubic yards of material,” Scott said.


MaineGeneral owns 170 acres between the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 and Old Belgrade Road.

The new regional hospital will be on 75 acres, and work has taken place on about half that area since August. The Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, an outpatient facility that opened in July 2007, occupies 35 acres. The remainder of the property is undeveloped.

Some finished seeded areas of the project that surround ponds built for erosion control and drainage already show some green.

All storm water will be contained and naturally filtered on site; no storm water will go into the city’s wastewater treatment system.

Construction plans and designs remain fluid, officials said, and adjustments have already been made.

A plan to use an off-site warehouse to assemble some components has been scrapped.


“We will preassemble in the building itself,” Milbrand said. “Our schedule is such that we don’t need so much stuff in advance.”

The hospital construction itself is estimated to cost about $312 million, and MaineGeneral has retained control of the site, with Milbrand overseeing both the spending and the work on its behalf.

Architects, engineers and builders are working together on the project to ensure speedy delivery of the physical plant in a process known as integrated project delivery.

“Everybody on the project is watching the books,” Milbrand said. “The architects, contractors and MaineGeneral all tend to gain by bringing the project in under budget.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631


To view video of recent construction activities for the new MaineGeneral Medical Center hospital, visit our website at


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