WATERVILLE — Those who turned out for a public meeting Wednesday night to hear plans for and comment on a $4.8 million Interstate 95 interchange at Trafton Road cited traffic and safety concerns, with one person saying the project will make climate change worse.

More than 50 neighbors, city officials and area residents attended the meeting, held in the Spann Commons Summit Room at Thomas College and hosted by Maine Department of Transportation officials.

Ernie Martin, project manager for DOT, said the interchange near the Sidney town line will be funded by $1.9 million in state money, $1.9 million from private funds (Trafton Road Properties, Inc.) and a $992,678 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration.

“I feel confident that the money we have allocated for the project is enough to complete it,” Martin said.

Trafton Road Properties owns 921 acres off Trafton Road in Waterville and Sidney and houses businesses in its 227,000-square-foot building at the corner of Trafton and West River roads. Trafton wants to expand its capacity and increase its space for distribution, light manufacturing and warehousing.

Resident Bill Trafton said he has lived in the area a long time and thinks those planning for the interchange did a good job as far as mapping goes, but he thinks they overlooked the safety aspect of Trafton Road. He said he remembers when the road was gravel and had to be closed in the winter. There are places in the road that sink, he said.

“There’s some bad curves both ways, and I was telling one of the young gentlemen here that last spring we had a rainstorm and it flooded that road out,” Trafton said.

Martin said DOT officials would get together with Waterville and Oakland officials to see where problems are in the road.

“We’ll take a peek at it and see if there’s anything we can do in the interim,” Martin said.

Jim Shipsky, an architect who lives in Waterville, said he understands the interchange is a “done deal” that can’t be stopped but he wanted to comment on it in light of the United Nations summit on climate change, at which parties agreed to try to not make climate change worse. There are things that can be done that are a positive response to climate change such as investing in clean, renewable energy for transportation; and there are things that can be done to make it worse, Shipsky said. The interchange, he said, is an investment in suburban sprawl — and cars and trucks are not sustainable, but rail that runs on clean energy is sustainable.

“In my opinion, this is going to make climate change worse,” Shipsky said. “This is an investment in the past. It’s an investment in vehicles that burn fossil fuels.”

Susan McKenzie said that at a meeting held on the interchange last year to discuss the environmental impact of the project, a discussion about mitigation of wetlands was held and she understood money was going to be set aside for that. She wanted to know where that issue stood.

Martin said a large amount of money has been designated for wetlands mitigation — about $310,000.

Peter Coughlan, who works in the community services division of DOT, explained that Trafton Road for decades has been maintained by the city of Waterville and the town of Oakland, but that is going to change because the road classification will change with the interchange.

Trafton Road will become a state-aid road, joining the likes of Webb, Middle and West River roads, he said.

“We felt strongly it’s simply not a local road anymore,” Coughlan said. “It’s going to function at a higher level.”

He said Waterville and Oakland will continue to plow the road and do winter work on it, but the state will do repair work and larger projects. DOT will take over everyday maintenance including fixing culverts and clearing ditches. For larger projects such as paving and making safety improvements, the city probably would ask the DOT to do the work, he said.

“That’s where $500,000 will kick in to match DOT’s money to do whatever is needed at the time,” he said.

He was referring to $500,000 the city agreed to spend to help make improvements to Trafton Road.

Martin said he expects advertising for contractors to build the interchange will be launched in May or June next year.

Some people asked about the effect of increased traffic on Eight Rod and other roads with the introduction of an interchange. Martin said that with such projects, the effect will not be known until it happens.

“It’s going to be one of those things that probably is going to be determined after it’s built,” he said.

Roger Bedard, of Sidney, asked if the zoning on Eight Rod Road will change with the construction of an interchange.

City Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, indicated any such discussion would be held in the future.

“I think the speculation is if they eventually complete the Airport Road out to the Webb Road it might change the whole picture, but I think that’s years away,” O’Donnell said.

Jim Brown, of Trafton Road, said the road has a number of places that are not safe and people not familiar with it will start driving on it, not knowing the problems. He cited one corner in particular that is dangerous, he said.

“You think you can see around that corner and you cannot, and you’re putting an interchange right on it,” Brown said.

Ellen Wells, community wellness coordinator for Inland Hospital, and Peter Garrett, of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, asked about any plans for making safety accommodations on Trafton Road for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Martin said the developer, Trafton Properties, is interested in working with people to develop a trail and now is working with a snowmobile club. He said the DOT has to put its best foot forward to help accommodate bikes and pedestrians.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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