SKOWHEGAN — Commuters who used the downtown municipal parking lot in front of the Bernard Langlais Indian sculpture soon could have access to a 24-hour park-and-ride lot on Island Avenue next to the Federated Church.

That’s if the town can decide where to find the money for its share in the Maine Department of Transportation’s $68,000 project.

Selectmen voted Tuesday night 4-0, with Chairman Donald Skillings absent, to approve the project with a town share of $15,000. The question was whether the money was to come from the Public Works Department resurfacing reserve account, where there is $250,000, or from the downtown tax increment financing, or TIF, district.

The lot by the Indian was a popular park-and-ride spot for as many as 10 commuters carpooling to the General Dynamics shipyard at Bath Iron Works who would leave their vehicles there for the entire day. That changed when selectmen in September 2014 began work on an extended parking area — about 40 spots — in front of the Skowhegan Indian sculpture, agreeing to limit the area to two-hour parking. That area borders Cumberland Farms, an optometrist’s office building and the new Variety Drug.

Commuters moved to a grassy gravel area off Weston Avenue near Island Dairy Treat.

The new site would be a designated Maine Department of Transportation park-and-ride lot maintained by the town, Town Manager Christine Almand and Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said before Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting.

The town will pay $15,000 for its share of the upgrades as part of the project. DOT will pick up the rest, or about 80 percent of the cost, they said.

The job will include paving, the installation of five street lights, painting of parking divides and signs. The job would be put out to bid for contractors under Dore’s supervision as a certified project administrator.

Another advantage to the state-designated parking lot is that it will serve as a rest stop for motorists using U.S. Route 201. Dore said it will not be a truck stop, but rather a place for workers to park and share rides to jobs in the southern part of the state. Trailers and vehicles longer than 24 feet will not be allowed to use the lot.

The lot is the former site of Skowhegan High School and hasn’t been paved in more than 20 years, Dore said. The lot is owned by the town and will be maintained and plowed by the town. Parking for more than seven consecutive days will be prohibited. Parking in the winter will be limited to 24-hour periods.

Work is expected to begin in June.

“The parking lot on the island is at the point now that it does need repair,” Dore said. “It’s beyond its useful life.”

Dore said normally the town would have had to pay all of the costs to repave and fix up the island parking lot, but by partnering with the state DOT, the town became eligible for grant money for the work.

“They were looking to put in another park-and-ride on (U.S. Route) 201 in this area, so we said ‘Let’s do it,'” he said. There is another park-and-ride lot on the east side of the municipal building on Water Street, which selectmen said is usually full. Police cars also are parked in the lot.

Vice Chairman Paul York, who led the meeting Tuesday, said he is “all for the parking lot” but didn’t think the town could afford to take the $15,000 from the Highway Department’s reserve account.

The board will study the question and determine later where the money will come from.

Almand said the capacity will be for about 30 cars, vans and light trucks. The town owns that section of the overall lot from Island Avenue to the south channel of the Kennebec River, site of the historic Skowhegan Swinging Bridge, a canoe portage and small park, and a stone marking the spot where Benedict Arnold stopped with his troops on their ill-fated 1775 journey to Quebec.

Visitors and residents also will continue to use the parking lot for shopping, fishing and use of the small park.

The Federated Church owns the abutting property, including Tewksbury Hall behind the church, all the way to the river. The church still would be able to use the parking lot for events and services.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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