HALLOWELL — In 2014, the crowned main stretch of Water Street got on track to be rebuilt. In 2015, the city’s focus will be on mitigating the future project’s impact on downtown businesses.

The city of Hallowell finalized an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation to rebuild the city’s main thoroughfare in August. It’s expected to cost more than $3 million in state and federal funding and take up to six months, but the funding for the project won’t be available until at least 2018, said Ernie Martin, the department’s project manager.

It would rebuild Hallowell’s main street, which has an exaggerated crown in its middle and slopes heavily toward the sidewalk on the Kennebec River side. The project would also allow for repairs to antiquated utility lines below the road. The city could also choose to build new sidewalks, a sidewalk extension to the boat landing, streetlights or other improvements as parts of the project.

Despite Water Street’s poor quality, some downtown business owners have long voiced concern about the project’s timeframe, saying reducing downtown traffic for six months could put less-established businesses under.

Councilor Alan Stearns, the chairman of the council’s Highway Committee, said this year, many councilors feel that Hallowell “already ripped off the Band-Aid” in deciding to rebuild the road, but the council’s goal in the new year will be “to redouble efforts at public engagement” to “make sure that the creativity of everybody is at the table to make the best out of a necessary series of decisions.”

At the council’s annual inauguration on Friday, Mayor Mark Walker is expected to name two committees to advise Stearns’ panel.

City Manager Michael Starn said one, headed by Frank O’Hara, a city resident who works as a consultant on many Hallowell issues, will focus on finding the necessary parking to sustain businesses during the project. The other, to be led by Chris Vallee, a downtown real estate agent who heads the Hallowell Board of Trade, will focus on marketing the downtown ahead of and during construction.

O’Hara said despite Hallowell’s density downtown, there are a number of lots that could accommodate cars during the city’s busy summer season, including space around the Maine Public Utilities Commission at the corner of Second and Winthrop streets. However, he said “it doesn’t feel close” to Water Street for many people, and that could be the biggest problem his committee will face.

“The trick in parking is that it needs to be visible to where people are walking to,” O’Hara said. “People don’t like to not see their destination, even if it’s a short distance away.”

On the marketing side, Vallee said his goal will be to “publicize the heck” out of Hallowell’s downtown. In the new year, he said he expects his committee to develop creative ways of bringing people there during the project.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get them here to keep our small businesses flourishing,” Vallee said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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