CHINA — The Maine Department of Transportation scaled back 15 percent of the projects it anticipated completing — but Augusta is an area relatively unaffected by the cutback.

Projects that were halted never had “a shovel hit the dirt,” according to Paul Merrill, public information officer for the Maine DOT. If work has started and contracts have been made, the work is proceeding.

“The changes we’re making are to jobs that haven’t been contracted,” he said, adding that those include some projects with bids that came back higher than what the DOT estimated they would cost and some that never made it to bid.

Merrill said the department met with contractors who said that the wages were the primary driving factor in the high bids coming in.

“When economy is good and things are rolling, people can be more judicious about the work they do,” he said.

Doug Coombs, DOT project manager for the midcoast region, said two paving projects — U.S. Route 202 in Winthrop and Manchester and Route 3 in Augusta, Vassalboro and China — he is overseeing were not affected by the climbing cost of work.

Pavement milling on shoulders of Route 3 continues in the rain on Friday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Now that the state is in that short season between mud and when the snow flies again, the Maine DOT and its contractors are getting the bulk of the state’s road construction completed. Already commuters and vacationers around the capital are seeing road improvements in the works.

Two Gardiner bridges are being replaced, and Hallowell’s Water Street is undergoing the continuation its reconstruction. Most recently, crews have started milling nearly 13 miles of Route 3 from Augusta to China so it can be paved.

Lisa Davis, who owns Nostalgia Antiques in China with her husband, Patrick Davis, thinks Route 3 will be nice to drive on and encourage vacationers to travel through their town.

“I only worry that drivers will go too fast,” Davis said. “They do already.”

The Davises’ antique store is one of several on Route 3, and she doesn’t think the road work will stop shoppers from traveling through the region.

“(Business) might slow down while they put down the hot top,” she said, “but they’re usually pretty quick.”

Coombs is overseeing the Route 3 paving project. He said the contractor, All State Asphalt Inc., will have until Oct. 5 to complete the work.

“Starting this early, (the work) should be done way before that,” he said.

Coombs anticipates it will take 76 calendar days, which exclude Sundays and holidays, to finish the work. Construction will cost $2,428,275 and will be paid for with state and federal funds.

Pavement milling on shoulders of Route 3 continues in the rain Friday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Crews started milling less than an inch of pavement off the surface of the travel lanes of Route 3 around the beginning of May. After milling, Coombs said, crews will put down an overlay of pavement, and cracks in the shoulders will be sealed.

To keep traffic flowing through three major intersections — those with Church Hill Road, Route 32/Windsor Road and Route 9/U.S. 202 — work there will be done only between 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The work will start near the Church Hill Road intersection and continue a little less than 13 miles through Augusta, Vassalboro and China.

Coombs also is overseeing paving of U.S. 202 in Winthrop and Manchester.

It will start near the intersection of U.S. 202 and Annabessacook Road in Winthrop and proceed northeast almost 1.5 miles. It will start again at the intersection of Peck Farm Road and extend more than 4 miles into Manchester. The only portion of U.S. 202 not included in this construction project is the new intersection at Main Street in Winthrop.

All State also is undertaking that paving project, with the same work being done as is being done on Route 3. That construction will cost $1,126,98, also paid for with state and federal funds.

Exactly when it will begin, Coombs is unsure.

“There will be reader signs to alert commuters for a couple weeks in advance,” he said.

The contractor also will have until Oct. 5 for it to be completed, and it will take 48 calendar days.

For that project, however, because of the high traffic rate for commuters heading in and out of the capital, the entire project will be completed between 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The construction will occur on either side of the Winthrop Fire Station — and there will be no way for those crews to get to a fire scene without crossing U.S. 202.

Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks that the disruption will be minimal.

“Callers might see a little bit longer of a response time for us to get to a scene,” he said. “Sometimes it takes that long during rush hour on a weekday evening anyway.”

Brooks thinks the real delay will come in engines getting to a scene, but for volunteer firefighters trying to reach the station before they deploy.

The time of night the construction will be done will work in favor of the department because, Brooks said, “the middle of the night gets the least amount of calls.”

Flaggers will control traffic at both project sites, but how they learn about emergencies is the same way the public learns, Brooks said — they hear the sirens.

He said the department tries not to use sirens at night as a courtesy to people living in the area, but he said they will be used during construction.

Another way flaggers learn about an emergency is when one of the chief officers go through, Brooks said, and they’ll let flaggers know additional first responders will be coming, too.

Brooks cautioned that any type of construction can increase the possibility of an accident.

“Pay attention to the people working,” Coombs warned drivers.

He foresees safety as being the main concern during the construction.

“These (crew members) are out there working close to the traveling public,” Coombs said. “(Drivers) are fast-moving, and they need to be aware.”

 

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