HALLOWELL — Transportation officials said next year’s Water Street reconstruction project is on schedule to begin in April and some design changes have been made that could shorten the construction period.

Ernie Martin gave more than 40 people a detailed project timeline Thursday during a Highway Committee meeting at City Hall.

The nearly $5 million reconstruction of an approximately 2,000-foot stretch of the busy corridor is set to begin April 2, and Martin reiterated his hope that construction would be completed by Oct. 26, with surface paving completed over four days in early June 2019.

Work on the east side of Water Street will begin April 9 and last about 12 weeks until June 29; work on the west side of the street is set for July 16 to Sept. 14. Martin said the contractor will work on side streets in between working on Water Street, and there will be no detour or work during Old Hallowell Day.

Contractors will work Monday through Thursday from sunrise to sunset and from sunrise to 3 p.m. Friday. Martin said there may be five 24-hour work periods at the intersections of Temple and Water streets and Winthrop and Water streets, but that won’t be known until the project is already underway.

Al Godfrey, of TSMI Engineers, said the plan also includes creating up to 19 temporary parking spaces on the railroad corridor between Winthrop and Central streets. The tracks will be covered with fabric and gravel, and Martin said he couldn’t say officially what would happen to the spots after the project is complete.

“If they could stay, that would be great,” he said.

There will be about 40 parking spaces on each side of Water Street when the project is completed — there are a total of 90 now — and Godfrey said he expects at least 75 percent of those spaces to be available during construction. Stevens Commons developer Matt Morrill offered his 54-acre campus as a possible spot for temporary parking, as well.

Hallowell voters will go to the polls Friday to vote on a $2.36 million bond package, which includes more than $600,000 for the Water Street project. The bond also includes $600,000 for the Stevens Commons redevelopment project, $535,000 for road maintenance in rural Hallowell, $300,000 for Central Street parking improvements, $220,000 for the city’s wooden fire tower and $80,000 for city building maintenance. A portion of the discussion at Thursday’s meeting centered on communication between the DOT and Hallowell officials, residents and business owners. Earlier this month, an Ogunquit business owner lauded the way the DOT communicated with his town and its residents during the two-year reconstruction of stretch of U.S. Route 1, the town’s main thoroughfare.

“The advanced communication calmed a lot of people,” said Ogunquit Inn owner Kirk Lavoie during a Hallowell Board of Trade meeting. “The three-year run-up to the project also gave business owners and residents ample opportunity to prepare for any potential disruptions.”

Meg Lane, a DOT communications official, said the public information plan for the project probably will include newspaper ads, email blasts and alerts, door hangers and a consistently updated website and Facebook page.

“We want to minimize the negative impacts of this project for both businesses and residents,” she said. “We want people to say it was worth it in the end.”

One of the additional communication tools the department will use is contractor updates. Contractors are obliged, she said, to write where they’ll be working for the following two weeks.

“Businesses and municipalities really like to get that,” Lane said. “It helps people plan ahead.”

The Hallowell City Council first entered an agreement with the DOT for the project in June 2014. At that time, former Councilor Alan Stearns said construction wouldn’t happen until at least 2017 and might not happen for up to 10 years.

The road, part of U.S. Route 201, has an exaggerated crown running down the centerline through downtown Hallowell, and it slopes sharply to the sidewalk on the Kennebec River side.

Board of Trade President Chris Vallee said he has been brainstorming ideas for ways to mitigate the expected disruptions next year and to keep morale up among business owners. One of the ideas — which was first proposed two years ago — involves painting the pavement of Water Street before it’s torn up and rebuilt.

Martin has held several public meetings the past few years and said they are an effective way to inform as many people as possible of the department’s plans. He expects he’ll be back in Hallowell at least once or twice before construction begins next year.

“We have a lot of outreach and do a lot of meetings so that when the first excavator hits the pavement, everybody is on the same page,” he said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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