A pedestrian walks dogs past a fence that blocks one of two lanes that are being dug up Wednesday on Main Street in downtown Waterville. The work is part of a road construction project on Main and Front streets that will eventually change the traffic pattern from one way to two way. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — Main Street downtown continues to be open to one lane of traffic as workers dig deep this week and rebuild the busy road from scratch as part of an $11.2 million revitalization project.

City Manager Steve Daly said Wednesday that work is being done on the west side of Main Street, from the south end of Main to Temple Street, and after that is finished, work will start on the east side.

“Then they have to go from Temple Street to the five-way intersection at the head of Main Street, one side and then the other,” Daly said. “It’s going to take a while.”

After that section is completed, work will move to Front Street where the same process will occur, according to Daly, who said work will continue into the fall and as long as weather permits.

“Downtown Waterville’s going to look like this for a couple of years, and it’s a major step in the right direction with respect to revitalizing the downtown and kicking off the Waterville renaissance,” Daly said.

Once the streets are completed, workers will stripe them, he said.

“It’s going to look a lot different than they do now,” he continued. “They will be striped to federal highway standards, because the federal government is going to pay for the project.”

Construction started in March on the $11.2 million project to transform Main and Front streets downtown from one-way traffic to two-way traffic, improve intersections and sidewalks, and beautify the area with landscaping. The comprehensive project is being funded primarily by a $7.3 million BUILD Grant the city received from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Work on Main Street, from Temple Street to College Avenue, is expected to be completed in the spring of next year. The realignment of Front Street and College Avenue also will be done in 2022. In the fall of next year, the final two-way traffic flow will be in place.

A lane of Main Street is dug up Wednesday as crews work on the road construction project in downtown Waterville. The work is part of a project that will eventually change the traffic pattern from one way to two way. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Crooker Construction of Topsham, is doing the road work and using some subcontractors.

City Engineer Andy McPherson said Wednesday that Main Street downtown is getting a “full-depth construction.”

“What we’re doing is digging all the road completely out and building it right from scratch,” McPherson said.

Workers on Wednesday were digging a few feet in the ground on Main Street. McPherson said it takes about 2 feet of gravel to build the road up and then about 6 inches of pavement is placed on top of that.

The pavement being removed on Main Street is 30 years old, he said. The gravel base being installed will last for 100 years or more, McPherson said, but the new pavement should last 30 years.

The project is a little behind schedule for various reasons, he said.

“It started with COVID, and COVID affected the contractor and it affected the subcontractors,” McPherson said. “From there, we hit unexpected duct banks, or ducts that have wires running through them. The ducts protect the wires. The duct banks on Main Street are made out of clay. Clay is very brittle. That slowed us down.”

Workers also hit ledge on Main Street, according to McPherson.

“The project is behind the original schedule by, I’m guessing, three or four weeks, but we expect the contractor to catch up,” he said.

On Front Street, the duct banks were made of concrete, according to McPherson. He said workers dug up Front Street but had to pause the work there, as Central Maine Power Co. has to replace some of the ducts.

Front Street, where work is expected to start again in August, will not require a full-depth construction, according to McPherson. He said that street will get a “mill and fill,” where about an inch of the surface is ground up and the street repaved. It is a much quicker process than the major work being done on Main Street, he said.

Concrete sidewalks will be installed on both Main and Front streets this summer, he said.

As part of the project, intersections will realigned and existing roadway drainage improved. Main Street will get new lights, concrete and sidewalks with brick strips on them, crosswalks and trees.

Crooker workers in March took down trees in the traffic island near Front Street at the intersection of Front, Main, Spring and Water streets. Removal of the islands there 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.

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