WATERVILLE — Construction started Monday morning on an $11.2 million project to transform Main and Front streets downtown from one-way traffic to two-way, improve intersections and sidewalks, and beautify the area with landscaping.

The contractor for the project, Crooker Construction Inc. of Topsham, is issuing project updates on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov. The Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce also is helping to get the word out about construction schedules.

As part of the project, roads will be reconstructed, intersections realigned, and existing roadway drainage improved. Main Street will be landscaped with new granite curbs, lights, concrete and brick sidewalks and crosswalks, and trees.

Workers from Crooker were taking down trees in the traffic island near Front Street at the intersection of Front, Main, Spring and Water streets late Monday morning as part of the first day of work on the project. The removal of the islands will allow traffic to maneuver through streets as the approaches to the intersections are reconfigured, according to the Maine Department of Transportation, which is partnering with the city, Colby College, and downtown businesses and building owners on the project.

Five maple trees and two evergreens were removed and chipped Monday, and then workers were going to remove the curbs on the island and put down gravel, according to Crooker’s project superintendent Alex Stone. Traffic was moving through the site freely.

“We’re maintaining one lane in all directions,” Stone said.

There are three traffic islands at the intersection and when workers completed the one closest to Front Street, they planned to work on the middle island, though no trees would be removed from that island, according to Stone.

Next week, electricians are expected to install temporary traffic signals at the intersection.

Workers are on site from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Former City Manager Michael Roy, who is staying on at City Hall temporarily and helping with the downtown project, said Monday that work on reconfiguring the intersection will continue for two to three weeks.

Equipment is staged along Front Street as the street is swept as crews began working on the Intersections of Main, Front, Spring and Water streets in downtown Waterville as part of first day of a $11.27 million project to improve sidewalks and intersections and change the flow of traffic on Main and Front street from on-way to two-way.in downtown Waterville, Maine Monday March 22, 2021. (Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel) Buy this Photo

“From there, they’ll be moving north on Main Street and Front Street, in terms of starting to work on the pavement and the sidewalks,” he said.

Stone and Crooker project foreman Jeff Gordon have been coming to Waterville since the beginning of January — doing traffic studies and planning the best ways to do the work with the least amount of disruption, Stone said.

Crooker has an office at 10 Common St., at the corner of Front and Common streets. The company is planning to hold a job fair from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday.

“We’re looking for equipment operators, truck drivers, laborers — basically anything having to do with heavy earth work,” Stone said.

When asked if there’s anything motorists can do to help make the process go more smoothly, Stone said obeying traffic signs and driving slowly are key and would be appreciated.

The traffic pattern is not expected to be changed to two-way until next year, according to Stone.

Heavy equipment is staged as Front Street traffic passes. Crews began working on the intersections of Main, Front, Spring and Water streets in downtown Waterville on the first day of an $11.27 million project to improve sidewalks and intersections and change the flow of traffic on Main and Front streets from one-way to two-way. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The city’s website says that, starting in April, work will begin on full road and sidewalk reconstruction of Main Street during daytime hours from the Spring and Water Street intersection moving north. Total reconstruction will proceed north to Temple Street and on Front Street.

Front Street will be repaved after existing pavement is removed. Also the granite curb will be reset on Front Street and sidewalks will be rebuilt.

The comprehensive project is being funded primarily by a $7.3 million BUILD Grant the city received from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Throughout the remainder of 2021, work will be completed on Main Street with workers doing one side of the street at a time, from Spring Street to Temple Street. Work on Main Street, from Temple Street to College Avenue, is expected to be completed in the spring of 2022. The realignment of Front Street and College Avenue also will be done in 2022. In the fall of that year, the final two-way traffic flow will be in place.

The BUILD project construction is taking place while Colby College continues to work on downtown projects. The college is in the midst of developing the $6.5 million Arts Collaborative on Main Street.

This spring, Colby and Waterville Creates! plan to break ground on the $18 to $20 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street.

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