AUGUSTA — A proposal to rebuild a heavily traveled section of Western Avenue doesn’t go far enough or start soon enough for some property owners.

State transportation officials responded by saying the project is all the state can afford to do, and is timed to avoid peak summer traffic.

State Department of Transportation officials held a public meeting Monday to discuss proposed improvements to six-tenths of a mile of Western Avenue, roughly from Prescott Road to Edison Drive.

At least one business owner on that stretch of road, automobile dealer Paul Blouin, said the planned $3.5 million project doesn’t go nearly far enough and won’t alleviate a bottleneck that occurs where two lanes merge into one for leaving Augusta toward Manchester, on Pelton Hill.

“Almost $4 million, nine months of work, and what do we have here when you’re done? We have a bottleneck in the same place it is now. We’re still going to have an hour of traffic every day,” Blouin said. “Right now it looks to me like a big waste of money.”

Al Godfrey, of TMSI Engineers, who is working for the DOT on the project, said the original design was done as part of a 2-mile-long corridor improvement project that would have installed two more lanes in each direction between Augusta and Manchester, with a divider in between, but there isn’t enough money to do that entire project.

“This is the first installment of a 2-mile corridor improvement project;” Godfrey said. “You’re right; this is a bottleneck, but this is what the department can do now, with the amount of money it has.”

About 23,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of road, according to a 2010 state Department of Transportation traffic count. By 2034, at the end of the projected project lifespan, traffic there is expected to reach 27,000 to 29,000 vehicles a day, according to Godfrey.

The rough stretch of broken road surface has irritated some residents of the surrounding neighborhood, who unsuccessfully tried last year to get the city to put down a coat of pavement on the worst part of it to smooth the bumps. DOT project manager Ernie Martin said work probably would start after July 2013 and be done in June 2014.

Residents said they were told previously the project would be done in 2013, and they expressed worry that it could get delayed even longer.

“We were told this project would be completed by the winter of 2013,” said resident Ron Lovaglio. “Now we’re going on June of 2014. What happened in the meantime?”

Martin said the project was timed to avoid major construction during the peak travel months of July and August.

Martin said it’s almost guaranteed there will be night work on the project. He said it hasn’t been determined yet how much work will take place during the daytime. He said there may be work on Sundays, but there will be no construction on Saturdays. Godfrey said the area is not considered a high crash area, statistically. He said in the last three years, there were 47 accidents in the section of road, all but one of them on the part of the road where there is no median strip.

Smith Street resident Robert Crockett, who said residents have been waiting for improvements there for 25 years, expressed concern about not being able to see traffic coming from the Manchester direction when pulling out onto Western Avenue from Smith Street.

“You’re taking your life in your hands by pulling out. You just can’t see up Western Avenue,” Crockett said.

Godfrey said the new road design removes much of the curve by Smith Street and dramatically improves sight lines.

DOT officials said the project will include a complete rebuilding of the road surface, drainage work and some widening.

A new sidewalk will be built on the Smith Street side of the road, from Smith Street east toward Augusta.

Luther Yonce, an authority on rights of way for the state DOT, said no homes or businesses will need to be acquired for the project, but some rights of way will need to be secured from abutting landowners, including rights of way for drainage work, widening, or even something as simple as allowing workers to blend driveways and yards with the new roadway.

Charlie Shuman, owner of Charlie’s Motor Mall car dealerships, said the project will be a big inconvenience and will affect sales during construction, but said he could live with it.

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