WATERVILLE — When two-way traffic is instituted on Main and Front streets in 2021, it will include a modified intersection at the south end of Main rather than a proposed roundabout.

Additionally, lane configurations will change, there will be no angled parking on Main Street, Colby Street will become a dead end and Temple Street will become one-way from Main Street to Front Street.

Those were just some of the aspects of the $9.14 million project that residents, business owners and others had questions about Tuesday during a public meeting at The Elm at 21 College Ave.

Preliminary plans for the downtown Waterville project show Main and Front streets, with two-way traffic, at left, and a new configuration for College Avenue and Colby Street, at right. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Officials from the city and the Maine Department of Transportation unveiled a preliminary plan for the project, part of a $7.37 million federal BUILD grant the city was awarded late last year to make improvements to downtown.

About 100 people turned out for the meeting, hosted by the city, Colby College, Kennebec Water District and MDOT.

The city received the BUILD grant from the Federal Highway Administration. Ernie Martin, senior project manager for the state transportation department who is overseeing the project, gave an overview of the preliminary plan Tuesday. Martin said there is more work to do before the project starts and answered questions from the audience.

Martin said the project will cost $9.14 million, with $7.24 million of that to come from the BUILD grant and other funding coming from private investment, including Colby College.

The Kennebec Water District plans to replace water mains downtown next summer, prior to the work, although the pipe project is not part of the BUILD grant.

KWD General Manager Roger Crouse said the current pipes were installed in 1903 and 1905 and have never been replaced. Doing so will improve reliability and reduce the need for repairs, according to Crouse, who said the engineering firm Wright-Pierce, of Topsham, has been hired to work on the project.

“We’ll be the first disruption to the downtown area with our construction project,” Crouse said.

Ward 7 resident Bob Vear said he did not think it is a good idea to make Colby Street a dead end, as the Police Department is there and police need to exit the street in a hurry during emergencies.

“If police have a call, how are they going to get out of there?” he asked.

Martin said emergency vehicle-only access could be allowed off Colby Street, enabling police to get in and out in a hurry. That access is an issue being tossed around right now.

Jennifer Bergeron, owner of the Lion’s Den Tavern on Main Street downtown, asked Martin what made officials decide not to develop a roundabout at the south end of Main Street and instead maintain the intersection much the way it is now.

“I don’t know why there’s not a roundabout — it must have been discussed,” Bergeron said.

Mayor Nick Isgro said the MDOT has a lot more rules to follow now than it did in the 1950s. A roundabout proposal for that site ended up being very complicated and would require a fifth leg, according to Isgro and Martin. But Bergeron said there are a lot of roundabouts in the state that have five legs. The proposed intersection does not allow one to take a left off Main Street to go over the bridge to Winslow, and that is a problem, Bergeron said.

Ames Cyrway, who owns The Framemakers on Main Street with spouse Brian Vigue, said their two biggest concerns have to do with deliveries to the business and handicapped accessibility.

There is a 10-foot difference in elevation from the business’ back entrance in The Concourse to the front entrance on Main Street, which is level to the street, Cyrway said. The store’s handicapped entrance faces Main Street, Cyrway added.

Cyrway asked if the business will have options for truck delivery on Main Street, and if customers who cannot deal with stairs on The Concourse side will have handicapped access on Main Street.

“If you have ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) access to your storefronts today, we have to maintain that,” Martin said.

He asked Cyrway to speak to him or another DOT official after the meeting to ensure Cyrway’s request is marked in the plan and to talk to the city about where Cyrway would like to see delivery access. ADA parking will be developed from the city’s recommendations, he said.

Candace Savinelli, owner of Holy Cannoli on Main Street, said she is concerned about the Kennebec Water District’s plan to dig up pipes on Main Street because her business depends on having good water quality.

Darrin Lary, senior project manager for Wright-Pierce, said when the more-than-100-year-old pipes were installed, they were unlined, so there are coatings of debris inside them and the Water District flushes them out every year.

The new pipes, he said, will be lined and will not have that buildup.

“I won’t say they’ll be an improvement to water quality, but the new pipes are designed to improve the water quality from what you have now,” Lary said.

He said officials will do everything they can to minimize disturbances during construction. At times, they will install temporary plastic pipes during construction.

Having two-way traffic on Front and Main streets has been considered for several years amid downtown-revitalization discussions spearheaded by the city and Colby College. The discussions follow the completion of a landmark, mixed-use residential complex on Main Street downtown, the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons. Construction has started 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, helped secure the grant for Waterville.

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