WATERVILLE — Downtown businesses, property owners, residents and others may ask questions and air comments Wednesday about a plan to make improvements downtown over the next couple of years as part of the $7.37 million federal BUILD grant awarded to the city late last year.

The open house, hosted by the city, Colby College, the Kennebec Water District and the state Department of Transportation, will be held 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons at 150 Main St. downtown.

The meeting is informal and there will be no structured presentation, but draft plans and exhibits will be on hand and people may ask questions and comment about them. They may come anytime during the open house and leave anytime, according to organizers.

Plans for the BUILD grant include changing one-way traffic on Main and Front streets to two-way, changing and improving intersections, reconfiguring parking and working on loading zone problems.

The city received the BUILD grant from the Federal Highway Administration. Ernie Martin, senior project manager for the state DOT, will be overseeing the project.

“Ernie is a real pro,” City Manager Michael Roy said Thursday. “I think we’re so lucky to have him in charge. He has done a lot of these and knows how to maneuver complicated projects.”


The Kennebec Water District plans to replace water mains downtown in the summer of 2020 in anticipation of the traffic pattern changes. The traffic pattern work is expected to occur in the summer of 2021, according to  Roy.

He encouraged anyone interested in the project to attend the open house.

“Even though it’s just the first opportunity, it is an important time, early on in the design process, for people to find out what might happen in front of their buildings, their businesses, and not wait until the end of the design process to come forward and ask questions,” Roy said. “We want to make sure we encourage people to come at the beginning of the project, not toward the end.”

He said the DOT sent letters to business and property owners downtown that would be affected by the changes. People who did not get a letter may contact Roy’s office at City Hall or the DOT and their names will be added to the list.

“We tried our best to identify all the businesses downtown and/or the building owners,” Roy said.

Roger Crouse, general manager of the Kennebec Water District, told the City Council on June 4 that the pipes downtown have not been replaced in about 100 years. The project area will include Main, Common, Temple, Appleton, Hathaway and Front streets. He said the design work for the project has started and the Water District is working with the DOT. The design work will take place from now until the end of December, and the project will be put out to bid in December or January, according to Crouse, who said he will be at Wednesday’s meeting.


Brian Lawrence, of the federal highway agency’s Maine division, said June 4 that his department received approval in March to start spending money on the BUILD grant design, and officials were completing a draft. Plans must go through several avenues, including the U.S. transportation secretary, he said.

Researching the feasibility of having two-way traffic on Front and Main streets has been talked about for several years amid downtown revitalization discussions spearheaded by Colby College and the city. The discussions follow the completion of a landmark mixed-use residential complex on Main Street downtown, the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, where Wednesday’s meeting will be held. Construction is scheduled to start this summer on Colby’s Lockwood Hotel at the other end of the street downtown.

The BUILD grant is part of $26.6 million awarded to Maine projects through the BUILD program, previously known as TIGER, to help improve infrastructure, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion and increase safety. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, was instrumental in helping to secure the grant for Waterville.


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