After four years of discussion, design and planning, the Hallowell City Council is prepared to vote Monday on the city-funded portion of the upcoming Water Street reconstruction project.

Mayor Mark Walker said it’s the council’s intent to have a resolution to approve what the city agrees to fund. During a meeting with the Maine Department of Transportation last month, Alan Stearns, chairman of the city’s highway committee, said plans call for the city to contribute $381,762, including about $195,990 for street lights. The total project cost is estimated to be $2.8 million.

Construction is set to begin April 16, 2018, and end Oct. 19, 2018, with the surface work being completed in June 2019, according to DOT project manager Ernie Martin. Martin 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.

“I’m expecting a very lengthy public hearing on Water Street reconstruction,” Walker said. “We are going to make decisions on funding, the schedule, what is included and also bump-outs.”

Bump-outs have been a hot-button topic for the last several months after having gained little traction when they were initially brought up during early planning discussions. Stearns has not been in favor of bump-outs because of the expected cost to the city and the potential for a delay in completing the project. He said, via email Friday, that he had nothing more to add on the subject.

Urban planner and designer Brian Kent held a talk in early April in Hallowell outlining his plans for curb extensions, or bump-outs, to help calm traffic and increase pedestrian safety. At the larger forum with MaineDOT last month, several proponents and opponents of bump outs spoke.

Stearns said he received an estimate that bump outs would cost between $6,000 and $14,000 each and could possibly prolong construction. Kent was unable to be reached for comment, but Walker said he thinks Kent will propose a new design with a compromised plan of only three bump-outs.

Frank O’Hara, in an op-ed piece in Friday’s Kennebec Journal, said Hallowell stores are losing business unnecessarily because people aren’t crossing Water Street because of the danger. O’Hara said the transportation agency rates the corner of Winthrop and Water streets as a frequent crash location.

According to Martin, there were 49 reported accidents on Water Street between 2013 and 2015, and nine at the intersection of Winthrop and Water. Of the 49 crashes, 20 were the result of following too closely and another 10 were caused by failure to yield the right of way.

Additionally, Hallowell’s highest-volume traffic months are June, July and August, but despite the increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic, there were only eight accidents during those months over the same three-year period.

“In my opinion, we are going to increase the safety of downtown Hallowell by a fair amount because of the brand new sidewalks, the road profile, new crosswalks and properly striped parking spaces,” Martin said. “Those changes will be a big safety increase.”

Before the meeting in late April at Hall Dale Elementary School, Walker said he had received a lot of communication via calls and letters and people stopping him on the street; but since the meeting, he’s had less.

“I would bet that I’ve gotten as many people saying they are in favor of bump-outs as those that are against them,” Walker said. “The sense I get is that while it may not be perfect yet, every change DOT is making has made the project sound better.”

Walker said the City Council is planning a special meeting for May 23 to discuss the search for a permanent city manager and to review the city budget. Also, Matt Morrill, who bought the Stevens School campus April 24, will give a presentation outlining his early thoughts for the 54-acre site.

The council meets at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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