AUGUSTA — Other than the occasional driver traveling the wrong way up Water Street, traffic might remain one-way only through downtown Augusta until next spring.

City councilors voted July 19 to change the traffic flow on Water Street through downtown from one-way to two-way. The series of changes to city ordinance to make way for the change in traffic flow take effect 90 days from the vote, which would be in mid-October.

However, city officials say by the time state Department of Transportation requirements to get the change approved are met, other logistics of the changeover are worked out and the work is put out to bid, it may be too late for the construction work needed to make the change to take place before this construction season ends when cold weather arrives in the fall.

So traffic — despite the council vote and a desire by many downtown merchants to make the change as soon as possible — may remain one-way, headed northerly, until related construction work can take place in the spring.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, and Lesley Jones, public works director, said the work will be put out to bid to be completed either this fall or in the spring of 2019, depending on whether the work can start in time to finish it before colder weather makes such work more difficult.

“If it does not seem feasible to have this work completed by the end of the construction season, we would be looking at project completion in the late spring of 2019,” Nazar and Jones said in a memo to City Manager William Bridgeo.

Heather Pouliot, president of the board of directors of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said while downtown advocates would love to see the change happen as soon as possible, there may be advantages if the change doesn’t take place until spring.

“What we don’t want is a rushed change,” she said Wednesday. “We want it to be smooth and apparent to anyone driving downtown. Therefore folks in Augusta and visiting Augusta need to be comfortable with the change before the first winter, when lines on the road could be covered in snow. In a perfect world, we would love to see the change take place ASAP. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and we understand that things take time, and we knew from the beginning of all the two-way talks that the change would likely not be until spring 2019.”

Changing the flow of traffic on Water Street requires approval of the state Department of Transportation, a review which includes whether the downtown has enough space to accommodate large trucks making turns required to travel in both directions. Nazar anticipates the DOT will approve the proposed change by mid-September.

Jones and Nazar said it will be difficult to put together information contractors need to bid on the work before the DOT approves the proposal, so work including repaving and putting down new stripes to mark the new traffic pattern and parking spaces, all of which need to happen about the same time, probably can’t take place until late September.

The section of road will be repaved, with a thin layer of pavement, to cover all the old stripes, arrows and other markings on the street, so when new stripes and arrows are painted, the old ones won’t still be visible and confuse drivers.

Nazar and Jones said it can be difficult to apply a thin layer of pavement in cold weather, adding another potential reason some of the work may be delayed until spring.

A traffic study the city had done indicated the island at the intersection of Water and Winthrop streets will need to be modified to make room for tractor-trailer trucks to make that turn from the new, southerly direction of travel. That work, too, probably won’t be put out for bid until September after plans are finalized.

Bridgeo said the latest estimate of the cost of the project totals $158,200. That includes $30,000 to pave and stripe the roadway, $15,000 to re-stripe parking spaces, $25,000 to modify the Winthrop Street intersection island, $20,000 to install poles and mount lighted “parking ban” signs for use during snow removal operations, $19,500 to modify crosswalks to comply with standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and $5,300 for a topographical survey and report.

The alterations to the crosswalks, something city officials have said would be required to be done eventually, can take place before the other work and are expected to be completed by the end of October.

Advocates for the change said it would help revitalize downtown by bringing more traffic through it, instead of forcing drivers coming from the northern end to go around downtown, and thus expose businesses there to more potential customers, and also improve pedestrian safety by slowing traffic.

Opponents said the change isn’t needed, so it wouldn’t be worth spending money to do it. It will take away much-needed parking spaces, they said, also expressing concern that it could alter traffic patterns in the city harmfully.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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