AUGUSTA — A state project has secured $4.8 million in federal funding that’s meant to improve safety on Bangor Street, where over nearly two decades there have been 27 crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists and one fatality.

In addition, a proposed pilot program in Augusta, meant to help people recover from substance use disorder, is also slated to receive $265,000 earmarked for it in federal funding contained in the budget signed by President Joe Biden Tuesday afternoon.

The Bangor Street project would replace the road’s four lanes, on a 1.4 mile stretch of the busy street north from Cony Circle, with three lanes — one travel lane in each direction and a center turning lane. That change is meant to maintain traffic flow and increase safety for turning vehicles, and reduce the number of travel lanes a pedestrian crossing the street would need to traverse.

After delivering remarks, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note, far right, steps aside as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, left, and Maine Gov. Janet Mills each gestures Wednesday for the other to speak at the Whipper’s Pizza parking lot at 9 Bangor St. in Augusta. Collins would later answer questions about possible successors to retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, during an event to announce she has secured $4.8 million in the draft Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation Appropriations bill for a project on Bangor Street. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Other changes to be made as part of the project are meant to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists on the road and include wider shoulders to provide more room for bicyclists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians crossing the street. Other improvements include pedestrian “refuge islands,” including around Cony Circle, and flashing beacons at crosswalks. Pedestrian refuge islands would be placed in the middle of the road, serving as a safe place where pedestrians crossing the street could safely pause, according to Paul Merrill, director of communications for the state Department of Transportation.

Since 2003, according to the state Department of Transportation, there have been 17 crashes on Bangor Street involving pedestrians, including one fatality and three serious injuries, and 10 crashes involving bicyclists, one resulting in serious injury.

“We are very pleased to see this project receive funding,” said Kalie Hess, a leader of the local pedestrian and bicycle safety advocacy group CAPITAL, or Cyclists and Pedestrians Invigorating the Augusta Life. “Bangor Street is a known challenge for biking and walking. This street was a priority in the pedestrian safety plan that Maine DOT worked with the city and the bicycle coalition of Maine on so seeing this project move forward is thrilling and great news for all who drive, walk, or bike on Bangor street.”


U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who visited Bangor Street in Augusta in January to announce funding for the project had been included in the then-draft federal 2022 transportation appropriations bill, said poor road design can create hazardous conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. Collins cited Bangor Street’s history of crashes, noting in a statement that the project “aims to transform this dangerous corridor and make it safer for all travelers.”

Bruce Van Note, state transportation commissioner, said the addition of the third bridge in Augusta, Cushnoc Crossing in 2005, and the state Route 3 connection to Interstate-95 reduced the traffic volume on Bangor Street, allowing the new design and reduction in the number of travel lanes. He said the changes are designed to make the road “work on a pedestrian scale and make the Bangor Street area a vibrant place where people can safely meet, walk, bicycle, shop and do business.”

Merrill said national studies have shown that converting a four-lane, undivided road into a three-lane road typically decreases crashes by 19% to 47%. State transportation experts predict a crash reduction of 15%-22% on Bangor Street and an injury crash reduction of 20%-25%.

He also said during evening rush hour periods, after the changes take place, the total time it takes for a vehicle to travel the length of Bangor Street is forecasted to increase by up to 7.6 seconds.

And that the finished product will embody the state transportation department’s complete streets policy which seeks to help ensure all users of Maine’s transportation systems, including bicyclists, pedestrians, people of all ages and abilities, transit users and motor vehicle users, have safe and efficient access.

The project will also be aided by $1.2 million in state funds, at a total estimated cost of $6.02 million.


Kirsten Brewer, another leader of the CAPITAL group, said the city’s public works department does a tremendous job making pedestrian improvements “but there’s so much more we have to do, and state and federal resources are vital to making them happen.”

Merrill said the state doesn’t yet have a firm timeline for when the work will take place.

Funding is also in the signed federal budget to provide $265,000 to establish a pilot program in Augusta helping people with substance use disorder find drug treatment and recovery programs, according to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office.

The program will be based out of the Augusta Fire Department and be modeled after Operation HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort), a program of the Waterville Police Department that Waterville Chief Joseph Massey described to Augusta City Councilors last year.

The funding is expected to be used to hire a project coordinator who would help local residents find help with drug addiction to help connect them with treatment and other recovery resources.

Last year 636 people died from drug overdoses in Maine, a 23% increase from the record number of overdose deaths set in 2020.

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