As heavy rain floods the area, a worker with the town of Winslow tries to clear a drain last Friday on China Road, at the intersection with Bay Street and Augusta Road, in front of Cumberland Farms at 1 China Road. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

WINSLOW — Last week’s storm brought another round of flooding to the intersection where Bay Street meets China Road — an area bedeviled for decades by high water during heavy rain — but Winslow officials say an infusion of state money will allow them to at least partially address the problem.

Paul Fongemie, director of Winslow Public Works, said a $2.7 million grant that the Maine Department of Transportation gave the town over the summer is to be used to upgrade drainage equipment around Cushman Road, which is off China Road, near the intersection with Bay Street.

When catch basins on Cushman overflow, it worsens the flooding that occurs downhill at Bay Street and China Road, he said Thursday.

The money was awarded to the town in July from the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund, which allocated $20 million for municipalities to shore up stormwater infrastructure in the face of climate change.

Town Manager Erica LaCroix said at the time that Winslow was receiving the money as “the increased severity of storms has surpassed the capacity of our aging stormwater system.”

Although the intersection of Bay Street and China Road is in the Dunbar Acres neighborhood, the town said in July that the project is part of a wider effort to improve sewers and drainage in the Sunset Heights neighborhood of Winslow. Town officials said improvements are still in the design phase and would ultimately cost the community $14 million.


The intersection of Bay Street and China Road — and Augusta Road — is home to many businesses, including McDonald’s, Cumberland Farms, a vehicle repair shop, a supermarket and eateries. Fongemie said that in his 11 years as public works director, he has seen the intersection significantly flood at least once or twice a year. This year, it has happened three times.

“It’s not a new problem at all,” Fongemie said. “I’m sure that climate change and the more intense rainstorms doesn’t help the issue.”

He said last week’s storm, compounded by snowmelt and an overflowing stream in the area, caused the intersection to be inundated with several inches of water.

Town Councilor Peter Drapeau said previous town administrations have put off upgrading drainage and other infrastructure.

“It’s expensive,” he said Thursday. “But we can no longer kick these cans down the road. These people pay their taxes. They’re entitled to have a yard that isn’t flooded.”

Storm drains around the intersection are “getting really tired and worn out,” Fongemie said. And pipes that carry away excess water are undersized.


With the state money, Winslow plans to upgrade the drains and enlarge certain pipes to drain water more effectively into a large box culvert near Cumberland Farms at 1 China Road. The culvert deposits water into the Sebasticook River.

Drapeau said he has heard the culvert is damaged to the point that within the first 10 minutes of a heavy rainfall, water begins running down roads. He said it will be “one heck of an undertaking,” but, once completed, “this project should take care of the flooding completely.”

Aaorn Lefebvre, who works for Kim’s Garage in Winslow, removes a Subaru Outback from floodwaters in July 2020 at the intersection of Bay Street and China Road in Winslow. The intersection floods regularly during heavy rain, and the town now has $2.7 million in state money to take initial steps toward fixing drainage in the area. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Fongemie is more skeptical. While he says he can shore up much of the faulty infrastructure around the intersection with the $2.7 million grant, a stream behind McDonald’s at 9 China Road poses a problem.

The unnamed stream crosses Cushman Road in a 48-inch pipe, then under Clifford Avenue in two 30-inch pipes. It then funnels into one 30-inch pipe under the McDonald’s parking lot. That pipe is too small, Fongemie said, and overflows during heavy rain.

One impediment to fully addressing the problem, Fongemie said, is that public money cannot be used for improvements on private land — in this instance an undersized drainage pipe that runs under the McDonald’s property. He could not point to a specific state statute, but referred to similar laws that prevent municipalities from using public funds to plow private roads and parking lots.

Winslow has partnered on the project with Dirigo Engineering, a consulting and engineering firm based in Fairfield.

“We are trying really hard to get this project out on the street,” Fongemie said. “Hopefully, by the spring or early summer.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: