AUGUSTA — Kenneth R. Bonsant built his home on Old Belgrade Road 48 years ago. He and his wife, Odette, raised two daughters there, and when Odette died in 1991, she was buried nearby at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Now, the retired bricklayer must move.

The state is taking Bonsant’s home and 1-acre property as part of the project design to improve access to Interstate 95’s Exit 113 in north Augusta.

The road improvements will carry Route 3 across the interstate to Route 27, most of it along the path of Old Belgrade Road and to the new $312 million MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital that’s under construction.

Road project costs are estimated to total nearly $11 million, with all levels of government and the hospital picking up the tab.

“They took my house,” said Bonsant, 78. “It will be nine weeks (last Monday). I don’t like it at all whatsoever. Out I go ’cause they threw me out — that’s all. I’m waiting for my appraisal money, and l will look around for another house. I want to stay right in this area.”

Bonsant remembers when the property off Old Belgrade Road was pasture for 124 head of dairy cattle owned by the Dostie brothers. Then the land was sold to Richard Violette, who carved a portion out for Bonsant and eventually built a golf course there.

Bonsant is worried about the price he’ll get for his home, which was valued at $180,000 four years ago, about the same time he refused to sell it to a doctor for $200,000, he said.

Bonsant is not the only one whose property will be taken for the project.

Ernie Martin, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation, said negotiations over taking Bonsant’s property are ongoing. He said the state tries to negotiate a price with landowners and will use the eminent domain process only as a last resort.

One of two roundabouts designed to make the interchange exit connect to Old Belgrade Road is on property owned by Paul Bonenfant, of Bonenfant Construction.

Losing property to the state is nothing new for Bonenfant.

“Five or six years ago they took back land from Old Belgrade Road and frontage on Eight Rod Road for the new bridge project,” said his wife, Alice Bonenfant. “We were not very happy.”

This time the state is looking at taking a six-acre parcel on the east side of I-95, and the process has started on a better footing.

“I do feel better about it because I had a meeting with them, and everything seemed to go good,” Paul Bonenfant said last week. He said there were no dollar figures proposed for his land, and he doesn’t expect to be talking money until later next year. His home, which is also on Old Belgrade Road but nearer to West River Road, will be unaffected by the taking.

Getting there from here

Other people will need a new way to navigate across roads.

The North Augusta Trailblazers Club, already barred from accessing trails where MaineGeneral Medical Center is building the hospital, needs to find a different way across Interstate 95.

“We’re working behind the scenes trying to find a solution,” said Martin.

Yvon Doyon, a former trail boss with the club, said he talked to both City Councilor David Rollins and state Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, about the club’s problem.

“I looked at it, and I don’t see them being able to do much for us,” Doyon said. “We would be crossing multiple lanes and islands.”

Many neighbors and others affected by the roadwork turned up for two recent meetings with representatives from the state Department of Transportation, including Martin. Their concerns were largely about the impact to their property.

“For the most part, the property owners were pleasantly surprised at the light impact of the entire project,” Martin said.

Martin said he’s gotten a half dozen or so complaints from neighbors concerned about braking noises from heavy trucks, some of them carrying material for the hospital construction.

“It’s a safety issue,” Martin said. “We want them to use their air brakes because the trucks are loaded.”

He said the state does not regulate the truck noise, so it would have to come from a city ordinance, which Augusta’s code does not address.

Plans call for wider shoulders along Old Belgrade Road, four lanes between the interstate access and the hospital, and improvements at intersections with Middle and Bog roads.

Part of the reason for the upgrade at Exit 113 is to alleviate congestion at Exit 112, which serves retailers and offices along Civic Center Drive and the Augusta Civic Center.

According to the plans, much of the work around the interstate, including one of the roundabouts, will on unoccupied land already under interstate control. The roundabouts will be a little smaller in diameter than Cony Circle.

The other major change will be at the Old Belgrade Road intersection with Route 27. That will be reconfigured into a right angle intersection and will match the entrance to Wilson Street. At least one, and maybe two, parcels there will be taken by the state, Martin said.

The state also plans to create a trail for bicycles and pedestrians along the Old Belgrade Road corridor that keeps them away from the interstate access.

It will also have to create a spur and cul-de-sac to allow a few Old Belgrade Road residents access to their property.

A final public meeting on the Exit 113 project will be in February. Then the right of way process will begin, Martin said.

“Everything’s staying on course,” Martin said.

He expects the construction work to be advertised in January 2013 and for construction to be completed just ahead of the hospital’s anticipated opening in the summer of 2014.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

ROAD EXPENSES

The following is a breakdown of the funding shares for road improvements, which are aimed at improving access to Interstate 95’s Exit 113 in north Augusta.

* $6.6 million from the Maine Department of Transportation.

* $3.2 million from MaineGeneral Medical Center (including a $1.2 million federal grant).

* $1.2 million from the city of Augusta, via a tax increment financing deal in which money generated by new development in the area of the hospital will reimburse the state.


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