WATERVILLE — Construction of a $4.8 million interchange at mile 124 on Interstate 95 that connects on- and offramps with Trafton Road is on the final stretch to completion, with officials hoping it will pave the way for future business development in an area that is active and growing.

The state Department of Transportation is building the interchange and overseeing the project, which started Sept. 21, 2016, and it is expected to be open for traffic July 7, according to Shawn Smith, DOT’s senior project manager who oversees work on the entire interstate.

“This is going well, even though we’ve had some cold weather and rain,” Smith said Wednesday at the construction site. “We’re on schedule. As long as the weather stays with us, we should be able to get this done shortly after the Fourth of July.”

The interchange is considered a full interchange because traffic will be able to get off and on the interstate from both the northbound and southbound sides.

Coming from the south, trucks and other vehicles would get on the ramp for the new Exit 124 about 11 miles north of Exit 113 in Augusta and 4 miles north of Sidney, according to Smith. Coming from the north, they would enter 3 miles south of the Kennedy Memorial Drive exit in Waterville. The north- and southbound ramps are mirror images of each other on either side of the I-95 overpass on Trafton Road.

Federal, state and private money funded the construction project through a Business Partnership Initiative. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, provided $1 million; the DOT funded $2 million; and Trafton Properties Inc., $1.81 million. The City Council gave the project its blessing but did not help fund it.

“I strongly believe that this is yet further evidence of the renaissance in the city of Waterville, and the city is very grateful to Trafton Properties and the MDOT for their work in making this happen,” City Manager Michael Roy said Wednesday. “I believe that what will happen as a result of the interchange will be very positive economic growth for the city.”

Trafton, which supplied not only the $1.81 million but also money for engineering and other costs, owns 921 acres in Sidney and Waterville, as well as the former Wyandotte Mill at the corner of Trafton and West River roads.

The 227,000-square-foot mill houses manufacturing and distribution companies, and Trafton plans to expand. A representative of the company on Monday went before the city’s Planning Board with plans for a 120,000-square-foot commercial building to be built on Trafton Road that would house six tenants who would use it for warehousing, storage and possibly light manufacturing.

Such expansion would not have been possible were it not for the partnership between Trafton Properties, the DOT, the city and federal funding, according to Harry Kojoian, vice president of operations for Trafton Properties.

Kojoian said in a phone interview Wednesday that Trafton’s existing facility on the corner of West River and Trafton roads is 100 percent occupied and the chances for future development can be attributed to the Business Partnership Initiative which allowed the interchange to be built. He said Trafton is glad DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt allowed construction to take place.

“We’re excited with the progress and how fluid everything has been since construction started, and we’re looking forward to July 7,” Kojoian said.

The DOT hosted public hearings in Waterville the last few years in which neighbors and others commented on the proposed construction project. Some people said they were concerned about traffic, safety and noise. City and DOT officials said a new interchange would take pressure off Kennedy Memorial Drive, which is a busy road. Without the interchange, trucks must travel north on Route 104 past Thomas College and get on I-95 via Kennedy Memorial Drive, more than 5 miles away.

City and Trafton Road officials had talked for about 10 years about the possibility of an interchange at that location.

“The Trafton Road interchange has been and remains one of Waterville’s premier and ongoing partnerships with private investors — in this case, Trafton Realty — and the state of Maine,” Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said Wednesday. “We’re extremely grateful in particular for the commitment Harry Kojoian has shown to Waterville and our shared success.”

Kimberly N. Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, said she could not be more pleased that the interchange is nearly completed.

“The economic potential of that interchange in opening up the corridor to development is going to mean so much to the city of Waterville, and hopefully it will alleviate the budget pressure we experience every year,” Lindlof said. “Trafton Properties is superb to work with, and they do such a great job of locating businesses in their space; and this will be another tool for them to do that. I’m very excited about this. Plus, it will alleviate pressure on Kennedy Memorial Drive.”

Matt Swindells, DOT’s resident project representative who is in charge of the interchange project and has been on site since day one, said that last year workers excavated the area, which formerly was a farm property with foundations, silos and an old manure pit with 2,500 yards of cow manure in it. They removed ledge, cleared the site, installed drainage pipes and put gravel on northbound and southbound ramps.

Work was put on hold during the winter and re-started April 12 with Sargent Corp., based in Old Town, completing the remaining excavation and installing gravel, according to Smith. That work was completed by the end of May.

On Wednesday, Pike Industries, of Fairfield, was putting the final base coat of pavement on the southbound ramps and Eight Rod Road and had completed paving on the northbound ramps. Pike also paved the intersection of Trafton Road and Route 104, also known as West River Road.

Sign and light concrete foundations are being built, according to Smith, and A&D Electric Inc., of Sabattus, installed electrical conduit on all the ramps and will put up signs and lights in the next few weeks. Smith said surface pavement is scheduled to be installed on the ramps by the middle of June, and once that is done, final loam, seeding, sign installation, striping and general cleanup work will be done.

Smith said the DOT typically does interchange modification because of traffic problems and to improve safety, but it is rare that it builds a full interchange. Swindells said the project is unique in that respect — workers get to build something rather than repair it.

“It’s going really well,” said Swindells, a nine-year DOT employee, as Pike workers laid pavement on the southbound ramps. “This is the last of the paving for today.”

Smith, who has worked 28 years for DOT, said the new interchange will allow direct access to I-95 and pave the way for future business growth opportunities in an area that is active and growing.

“Especially with the manufacturing facility Trafton Properties has, it’s going to allow all the trucks to use the interchange,” Smith said. “They don’t have to go to Sidney or KMD.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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