HALLOWELL — Major repairs to Water Street got a “go” vote on Monday.

City Council unanimously approved entering an agreement with the Department of Transportation for the engineering and design of a reconstruction or rehabilitation project on Water Street.

Decisions such as the scope of the construction and the scheduling of the work could still be years away, but Councilor at Large Alan Stearns said it was important to take a “go/no go” vote before either the department or Hallowell officials get deep into the details.

Several downtown business owners and residents spoke at a public hearing before the vote. A few supported full reconstruction of the road, while others suggested ways to limit the scope of the work — such as leaving sidewalks untouched — to keep the project as short as possible and maintain foot traffic to businesses.

Many acknowledged the need for improvements to Water Street, while expressing concerns about the economic impact on Hallowell’s downtown.

“It’s a great idea, like we just heard, to do the entire reconstruction of the road. That’s what’s needed,” said Bob Patterson, who co-owns Timeless Treasures. “But at what cost?”


Patterson said there’s no way to really know how long reconstruction would take, and if Water Street is closed during the summer months, businesses will close, residential tenants will move out and building owners will not be able to maintain and pay taxes on their properties.

Other business owners, including Ruth Lachance, owner of Boynton’s Market, and Aurilla Holt, owner of Berry & Berry Floral, said they support limited construction projects.

Stearns picked up on what he heard as a consensus that the road should be fixed.

“That is the beginning of a decision, that almost everybody has said it needs to be fixed, but be very, very careful and very, very creative,” said Stearns.

The road, part of U.S. Route 201, has an exaggerated crown running down the center line through downtown Hallowell, and it slopes down sharply to the sidewalk on the Kennebec River side.

The reconstruction project wouldn’t happen until at least 2017, and Stearns said it may not happen for up to 10 years. A City Council committee has been paring down options for the scope of construction since last year.


The motion approved by councilors says that road construction would extend no farther than from the snow dump site at the northern end, near the entrance to the Kennebec Rail Trail, to the boat ramp on the southern end, between Temple Street and Gows Lane.

It also says that any final decisions are subject to City Council approval with involvement by the Council’s Highway Committee along the way.

Fully reconstructing a stretch similar to what’s mentioned in the Council’s motion would cost an estimated $2.8 million in state and federal money and take five to six months, depending on construction restrictions, to restore the road to modern highway standards.

That option would allow for new sidewalks with an extension from downtown south to the boat ramp and more street-side parking and lighting and utility improvements. Hallowell would have to pay for improvements that aren’t road-related.

Stearns said other communities have been able to negotiate conditions similar to ones Hallowell business owners have requested, such as stopping construction work during July and August or working two shifts per day. But the desire some expressed for a two-month project may not be realistic, he said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645


Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.