HALLOWELL — Laurel Rouillard said the planned Water Street reconstruction project will probably put a lot of people out of business. And she thinks she’ll be one of them.

“This is about customer base and are we going to lose it?” said Rouillard, the owner of Cause 4 Paws, a used furniture store. “I think we are.”

For the last several months, residents and business owners in Hallowell have heard about the proposed project that would rebuild an approximately 2,000-foot-long stretch of Water Street. After the release of a Maine Department of Transportation survey with nearly 250 respondents, their concerns are being heard.

“It’s long overdue and will be a great improvement for the city, but I think it is bittersweet,” Rouillard said. “Whoever is here will have to endure, or not, and strategize what to do differently (with their business). I know a lot of merchants are paying attention and spending a lot of time on that.”

Maine Department of Transportation senior project manager Ernie Martin said the results of the survey will provide the state with a baseline to start from when moving forward with the project, which has yet to receive funding for the construction. Martin expects that to happen in January.

“Now we really can take the gloves off and get down to looking at what time of day makes the most sense for the work,” Martin said. “Regardless, the consensus is to get it done as quickly as possible.”

City Manager Stefan Pakulski said the work is long overdue because “there has been so much stuff added to (the street) over the years that in some places, the pavement is a foot thick. As a result, the middle of the road has a big hump.”

But before the road can be repaved, Pakulski said that the city’s underground utility system, containing pipes and systems that are “outdated and in very bad shape,” would need to be replaced.

“The upgrading of the underground system is a huge part of this project,” he said. “You have to excavate it and put in a new system with up-to-date technology before you can rebuild your road on top.”

Pakulski said with all the work on Water Street, opportunity exists for the city to undertake additional projects in connection with the big dig. One of the ideas being discussed would upgrade the underground storm water systems on a number of streets that come down the hill to intersect with Water Street. Pakulski, who replaced retiring city manager Michael Starn in the beginning of October, said the city has not committed to that yet but that discussions are ongoing.

“You have a lot of aging infrastructure, but the city would have to pay 100 percent of the cost for that work,” Martin said.

One of the other concerns raised by local residents and businesses owners, and one echoed by Pakulski, is the dearth of parking around the downtown corridor, and current plans would actually result in a net loss of parking spots on Water Street.

The city is looking at creating another municipal parking area on Central Street that would add an additional 40 or more parking spaces, which Pakulski said would be vital to the downtown area. He added that this project is one that could be completed before construction on Water Street begins.

The state’s goal is to start and finish the Water Street project during the 2018 construction season, but Martin said that can only be accomplished with a one-way traffic pattern. More than 86 percent of the responders said they preferred that pattern.

“The April-November timeframe is very feasible,” Martin said. “When you read the comments on the survey, everybody wants to shorten the construction period and just get it done.”

Rouillard echoed that sentiment, but said that since the project is still at least two years away, she was going to focus on the present.

“I’m going to live in the now and wait and see what happens,” she said. “But is it going to happen? We don’t really know that yet.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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