HALLOWELL — More than 50 people filled the Hall-Dale Elementary School cafeteria Thursday evening to hear the Maine Department of Transportation’s preliminary design plan for a planned Water Street reconstruction project.

Councilor Alan Stearns, chairman of the city’s highway committee, said the city would pay $381,762, including about $195,990 for street lights.

Stearns gave a 53-slide presentation outlining the city’s role in the process and some of the concerns associated with a project on such a large scale.

“We are competing with other towns for DOT’s money, but there is strong public support for investing in this project,” Stearns said.

Stearns broke down the local cost of the project, including more than $130,000 for drainage work on Central and Union streets. He said DOT’s cost for solving drainage problems on other streets, including Union and Temple streets, is approaching $800,000 and probably will exceed that by the time the project is complete.

The total cost did not include new parking on Central Street because the city has not reached an agreement with the landowner.

Al Godfrey, of Terra Magna Services Inc., the project’s engineering firm, estimated during his overview of the design that 14,390 vehicles per day will travel on Water Street south of Winthrop Street in 2018, during the proposed construction time. He said safety is a primary concern throughout the construction process.

Godfrey described the design plans displayed in the front of the cafeteria, which included parking spaces and painted crosswalks. He said the design includes removing the excessive crown in the roadway and said the travel lanes will be 14 feet wide in both directions for the majority of the reconstruction section, with 8-foot shoulders.

Godfrey said downtown parking is a huge concern. Today, he said, there are 90 marked parking spaces, and the design calls for keeping the same number of marked spaces in the downtown district.

DOT Project Manager Ernie Martin said earlier plans call for construction to begin April 16, 2018, and end Oct. 19, 2018, with the surface being completed in June 2019. He said construction work would take place from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday. The bulk of activity during the 155 working days would take place on Water Street. Martin estimated about 70 working days with one construction crew would be needed to complete the curb-to-curb work on the street.

“There are still things that need to be developed that could shorten the schedule,” Martin said. “There’s going to be a lot of dialogue about the process and there’s still a lot to be discussed. It’s a complex project.” Martin anticipates advertising the project late fall next year.

The plan for a construction detour has not changed, Martin said. There will be one-way traffic northbound, while southbound traffic would be rerouted to Second Street.

Construction hours and the timeline for the work have been a consistent theme throughout the process. Adam Patterson, who owns Timeless Treasures on Water Street, was unable to attend the meeting but expressed his concern about the construction hours in an email sent to Mayor Mark Walker and the Kennebec Journal.

Patterson said by limiting hours of construction to the proposed hours of 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., the only people affected will be the local businesses that operate during the day. Patterson said retail stores will close or move out of town in an attempt to save their businesses if those are the construction hours.

In his email, Patterson suggested extending the construction hours to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. so that restaurants, bars and residents could share some of the burden and inconvenience. Hallowell Area Board of Trade President Ruth LaChance, who owns Boynton’s Market, echoed Patterson’s comments and said she feels the nightlife people are getting special consideration by not having any work done at night.

LaChance also suggested work be done from Sunday to Thursday, thus keeping Fridays and Saturdays construction-free.

Stearns said the effect on local businesses has been a priority for everyone involved in the process, though Patterson wrote that he feels as though the city is ignoring them.

“This will have business impacts, and businesses and property owners are planning for 2018,” Stearns said during his presentation. “Business impacts have been a dominant concern throughout the process.”

One thing that was not in the preliminary design plan are bump-outs, or curb extensions. Urban planner Brian Kent gave a talk earlier this month with his own plans for Water Street that included bump-outs, which experts say visually narrow the roadway creating safer and shorter crossings for pedestrians while increasing the available space for landscaping and other features. Kent set up a display of his design outside the cafeteria.

Stearns said transportation department officials estimate that each bump-out would cost the city $6,000 to $14,000, but Martin said if the city decides they want bump-outs and are willing to pay for them, his agency would alter the design. The addition of bump-outs may require extending the construction timeline, which won’t please everybody.

The city’s cost estimate does not include aesthetic crosswalks, historic enhancements, aesthetic driveway crossings and landscaping for Granite City Park. If the city decides to include those design elements, it would have to increase the budget and appropriation for the project.

LaChance said she was much more relaxed about the project after hearing the plans Thursday night, but she was adamant about not wanting bump-outs.

“Anything that extends this project is not something we are interested in,” she said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.