A three-party agreement covering the construction of a new interchange connecting Interstate 95 with Trafton Road near the Waterville-Sidney line has been worked out by the state, Waterville’s city manager and the developer who is pushing for the new highway exit.

The cooperative agreement, which specifies how the nearly $6 million project will be funded, is up for approval by the Waterville City Council Tuesday evening.

Trafton Properties Inc., a Rhode Island-based company that owns more than 900 acres and an industrial building in the area of the proposed interchange, would pay nearly $2 million to build the network of on and off ramps and would work with the state to secure a similar amount in a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The state Department of Transportation would provide another one-third share, which is $1,981,463.

Until the project secures the grant, the proposed interchange is still pending.

The city’s share of the cost would be up to $500,000 in tax-increment financing money to pay for any roadwork needed to address increased traffic on nearby roads. The TIF district would allow the city to capture tax revenue from new property value in the district and earmark it for economic development projects.

“The city, through this agreement, is pledging its cooperation and financial commitment,” said City Manager Mike Roy.

Public comments on a draft proposal for the interchange led to changes in the off ramp positions.

While public comments were supposed to be limited to environmental impact, a consultant for Trafton said the company made changes to the project in response to the broad range of residents’ feedback.

The most significant change is the relocation of the off ramp from I-95 north, which originally intersected with Junction Road. The exit from the ramp, which connects with Trafton Road, has been moved west of Junction Road.

“One of the main comments and concerns was that the Junction Road was going to close, and that is now going to stay open,” said John Melrose, a senior consultant with Eaton Peabody, a Bangor legal and consulting firm that represents Trafton.

Other smaller changes were made to address comments from members of the community, including protecting an apple tree that some residents were concerned would be harmed during construction.

“We’ve gotten back to the people who raised their concerns, and they were pleased with the response,” Melrose said.

Some residents living near the proposed interchange are still sharply critical of the plan and told state and Trafton officials that they were concerned about increased traffic and noise. Residents said the development would negatively change the character of the rural area, scare off existing wildlife and lower their property values.

Melrose said that while he does not want to diminish concerns of residents near the project, land in that area has been zoned for industrial and commercial use for more than 20 years, and the possibility it would be used for development has been floated for decades.

He said the development is supported by economic development groups in Waterville as well as the city’s comprehensive plan.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and acting head of the Central Maine Growth Council, said development of an industrial and commercial center near a new interchange is important because the Kennedy Memorial Drive commercial and industrial district is nearing its capacity for new businesses.

“This is a big deal,” Lindlof said. “There is not much room for development left in Waterville. To have land for development is an important need” to allow the city to expand its tax base.

The project cleared a hurdle in August when the Federal Highway Administration found that the preferred route would have “no significant impact on the natural or human environment.”

Roy said it is too soon to know what a tax-increment financing district at the Trafton Road intersection might look like, but said the city could design it to include property in a broader range beyond just the interchange so that it includes new businesses that decide to build near the interchange.

In 2011, Trafton Realty proposed building an additional 450,000 square feet of light manufacturing, distribution and warehouse space adjacent to its existing 227,000-square-foot building, which houses Mid-State Machine and other businesses.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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