The Civic Center Drive sidewalk project under construction Tuesday at the Interstate 95 exit 112 southbound on-ramp. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — A long-sought sidewalk for heavily traveled Civic Center Drive is closer to becoming a reality.

Construction on the sidewalk began at the end of March and is expected to be done in August, according to Aurele Gorneau, project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

For years, officials recognized the need to provide a safe way for people to walk to and from the Marketplace at Augusta and other spots in the popular and congested area. The new sidewalk will extend along the Augusta Civic Center side of Civic Center Drive, between the Darin Drive and Townsend Road intersections. That is approximately two-thirds of a mile of sidewalk that wasn’t there previously; it will cross through the busy Civic Center Drive and Marketplace Drive intersections and pass under a bridge that carries Interstate-95 over Civic Center Drive.

The approximately $1.2 million project is jointly funded by the state and city, with the state picking up 80% of the cost and the city the remaining 20%.

Matt Nazar, Augusta’s director of development services, said the need for a sidewalk there was identified about 10 years ago, due to the frequency of pedestrians seen walking along that segment of Civic Center Drive, which is also Route 27.

“It’s a particularly dangerous environment for pedestrians due to traffic speed, volume and the lack of pedestrian facilities,” he said. “This will dramatically increase pedestrian safety in the area, and there are quite a few people that walk that segment of road. Undoubtedly some are people staying at the hotels, others may be nearby residents, and still others may be employees from businesses on one side of the highway going to businesses on the other side of the highway.”

Gorneau said the need for the project can be seen both by the number of pedestrians seen walking there, and a path worn into the grass and dirt along the roadside. He said annual average daily traffic flow data shows about 15,000 vehicles travel that section of Civic Center Drive a day.

The Civic Center Drive sidewalk project under construction Wednesday near Interstate 95 exit 112. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

In 2018, city councilors voted to approve the expenditure of additional funding as the anticipated cost of the project escalated from previous projections.

The project was originally going to be a city-run project, with the same cost-sharing plan, but it was delayed in part, Nazar said, by other construction projects taking the city engineer’s time. So the city turned the project back over to the state two years ago. And state officials then decided to redesign part of the project to make safety improvements to the Interstate-95 on-ramp at exit 112 as part of the work.

Nazar said when the planned connection of the new sidewalk to an existing sidewalk on Townsend Road is complete, a pedestrian will be able to walk from the Darin Drive intersection and connect to the city’s existing sidewalk network off Townsend.

A sidewalk may also be built to the south of the planned end of the current project. Projected tax revenues from a 42-unit senior citizen housing complex a developer proposes to build at 10 Civic Center Drive, about 2,000 feet south of the Townsend Road intersection, could be used to partially fund construction of a sidewalk connecting that housing project to the currently planned sidewalk ending point.

However, Gorneau said there are currently no other projects scheduled that would extend the new sidewalk in either direction.

Pratt & Sons Inc., of Minot, is the contractor on the job.

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