WATERVILLE — A planned reconfiguration of a dangerous intersection on First Rangeway will be delayed at least a year after bids came in higher than funding for the project.

The five-way intersection at First Rangeway, Chase Avenue and Western Avenue has an expected crash rate three times more than the factor the state uses to categorize a high crash intersection. Over the past three years, 22 motor vehicles have been involved in 10 accidents at the intersection, according to crash data from the Maine Department of Transportation.

The city plans to create a four-way intersection by making a dead end on Western Avenue where it meets First Rangeway. A new connecting street would be built across a vacant lot next to Mount Merici Academy to connect Chase and Western avenues. Speed limits on the new street and Western Avenue would be 15 mph.

Removing the intersection’s fifth leg is expected to make it considerably safer and also would slow the flow of traffic on upper Western Avenue, which leads into a quiet residential area, according to city engineer Greg Brown.

The proposed solution was conceived in 2008, but it took until this year to work through stormwater runoff issues and Department of Environmental permitting, secure a right of way, survey the area and design the project. The Maine Department of Transportation provided Waterville with $145,000 to reconfigure the intersection. That money is reimbursed through federal funding.

The city paid close to $30,000 for the rights to build the new connecting street between Chase and Western Avenue, which left it with roughly $115,000 for road construction, said City Manager Mike Roy.

Construction was expected to begin this summer and bid requests were sent out this spring. The three bids that came back, however, were significantly greater than expected. The lowest bid, from Manter Construction of Maine, was almost $252,000, about $130,000 greater than the project budget.

“The availability of funds was way, way short,” Roy said on Wednesday.

Timing probably influenced the high cost, Roy added. Requests for bids were sent out late, when many construction companies had work for the season already lined up and were charging premium prices.

“I think it was that, more than anything else,” Roy said.

The city intends to submit a new bid request in the fall. With more time to complete the project in 2016, the cost might be reduced, Brown said in a memo Wednesday to the mayor and the City Council.

The intersection is a priority project for the Department of Transportation, and because it already has some funding, it probably will be allocated additional money, Department spokesperson Ted Talbot said on Wednesday.

Delayed construction, however, leaves a dangerous intersection in place for at least another year.

The Department of Transportation collects data on crashes from law enforcement agencies across the state. The department determines high rates of crashes, called a critical rate factor, by calculating the number of crashes and the traffic volume over a three-year period, according to Talbot.

A critical rate factor greater than 1 indicates a dangerous intersection. The First Rangeway intersection has a rate factor of 3.31, more than three times what the state considers unsafe.

Vicki Duguay, principal of Mount Merici Academy, said the school is looking forward to the new intersection and has been discussing plans with the city for the past few years. Drivers regularly used the school’s driveway to cut through from Chase Avenue to Western Avenue until the school blocked the driveway with boulders a few years ago.

“It had been a problem because people didn’t recognize or appreciate that it was a school zone,” Duguay said.

People sometimes still pull into the school because they are unaware that they can’t cut through. The new road should help, she said.

As someone who regularly drives through the intersection to get to her job, Duguay is glad to see some movement on the project.

“I’ve been driving that intersection for 15 years. It’s a hard one,” she said. “You just have to be really, really cognizant of what everybody is doing.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire


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