WATERVILLE — After years of debate, work is underway on building a $4.8 million interchange at mile 124 on Interstate 95 that connects on- and off-ramps with Trafton Road.

The project is being funded with state, private and federal money. Trafton Properties Inc. is funding most of the project at $1.81 million plus engineering and other costs, combined with a $1 million federal Economic Development Administration grant and $2 million from the state Department of Transportation.

Work on the project is expected to be completed next year and will benefit the city, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

“That southern part of the city, I think, offers us some hope for increasing our total property valuation,” Roy said Friday. “It certainly offers us hope that we can see some investments happening out there. I certainly think it’s a good thing for Thomas College, too.”

Public hearings held over the last couple of years, as required by the project, drew residents who live in the area where the interchange is being built, and they expressed concern about a variety of issues, including traffic, safety and noise. Some people said Trafton Road has problems, including that parts of it sink in winter. Others cited climate change, saying an interchange is an investment in urban sprawl, and cars and trucks are not sustainable, but rail that runs on clean energy would be.

The interchange will be a half-cloverleaf at Trafton Road, near the Sidney town line, and will allow drivers to get on or off in either the northbound or southbound direction. It’s about halfway between the Lyons Road exit in Sidney, at mile 120, and the Kennedy Memorial Drive exit in Waterville, at mile 127.

The interchange will take pressure off Kennedy Memorial Drive, which is a busy road, according to Roy. Without the interchange, trucks must travel north on Route 104 past Thomas College and get on I-95 via Kennedy Memorial Drive, more than five miles away. City and Trafton Road officials had discussed the possibility of an interchange at that spot for nearly 10 years.

Roy said Trafton put a lot of money into the project and when additional money was needed, the company stepped up to the plate.

“It started out as a one-third cost share, but the EDA grant was not as much as they had hoped; and costs escalated, and they spent a lot of money out there — a lot,” Roy said.

He said the city is grateful for the state DOT’s willingness to take it on as a project.

“That’s not as huge as Trafton Road Properties’ involvement, but DOT’s help also has been very, very important to this thing happening. Really, this is a DOT project. The state is building the interchange, not anyone else, and the state had to agree it was a critical need and to find money for it. We’re grateful to the DOT and Commissioner David Bernhardt for making this happen.”

CPM Constructors, of Freeport, is the general contractor for the project.

Harry Kojoian, vice president of operations for Trafton Properties, said Friday that he is excited that the project is progressing.

“I’m excited not only for Trafton Properties, but for the city of Waterville and the town of Sidney,” he said. “It will hopefully increase the tax base there and focus on jobs. That’s really what we want to do going forward. We have to thank the Maine DOT for all their support, and the EDA and really, the state’s new initiative they have in place. That really helped move this project forward.”

The project is the state’s first under Bernhardt’s new program, the Business Partnership Initiative, which gives road projects a higher priority if developers help pay for them. Geared toward projects that help local economic development efforts, it splits the project’s costs. In this case, while the project was discussed for years, it never got launched because of lack of funds.

Kojoian said he hopes the model helps other communities around the state launch similar projects.

“I think it’s a great model for other states to use,” he said.

Trafton Properties owns 921 acres in Sidney and Waterville, as well as the former Wyandotte Mill at the corner of Trafton and West River roads. The mill houses five manufacturing and distribution companies including F3 Manufacturing, Victory Packaging, Stuart Irby Co., F.W. Webb Co. and Solideal USA Inc., according to Kojoian. Mid-State Machine Co. vacated the 227,000-square-foot mill and Kojoian is working with two potential tenants to fill that space, which he expects to fill by the end of the year, he said.

He said that companies want to have a site-ready place when they move to an area, and the presence of the interchange access opens up more doors for investment. That, combined with the presence of public water on Trafton Road and sewer from Webb Road and other amenities, creates a perfect storm for drawing potential tenants, according to Kojoian.

Kojoian, who was at the construction site Thursday, said the land is cleared and most of it, particularly on the east side, is completely graded.

Calls placed Friday to the Department of Transportation were not returned immediately.

Environmental impact from the project also was of concern to some residents who said they worried about wetlands protection. Ernie Martin, a DOT project manager, said at the time that about $310,000 was designated for wetlands for the project. Several residents who spoke at a public hearing last December, as well as in May 2014 at Thomas College, were unavailable for comment Friday.

The City Council approved the interchange project in 2014 but made it clear the city would not help fund the project. However, the council did approve a tax increment financing district for Trafton Road.

“It has not been created yet,” Roy said. “The sole purpose for the TIF as we’ve talked about it is for us to create an account to use to repair and rebuild Trafton Road; so as traffic increases, not only volume but type of traffic on Trafton Road, it will have to be rebuilt. The TIF account will be solely for the purpose of reconstructing that road. I’m not saying there won’t be other TIFs for other purposes. We have no idea about that yet.”

He said a requirement of the project was that the city make a commitment to establish a TIF account to help rebuild the road.

“We’re going to receive state assistance for the road project at some point in time,” Roy said.

He said it is impossible to predict when work on the road would be done, because it is not known how quickly new investments will be made in that area what the magnitude of investments will be.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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.