ELLSWORTH — Motorists will encounter new traffic pat-terns, including a one-way road heading south toward Bar Har-bor, as they travel through Ellsworth today.
The changes are part of a ma-jor reconfiguration of the Ellsworth Triangle at the inter-section of Routes 1 and 3 sched-uled to begin today. The changes were designed to im-prove the traffic flow through one of the city’s major intersec-tions and to accommodate new commercial expansion in the area.
“The road doesn’t handle the traffic we have now,” said City Manager Michelle Beal. “This is going to increase mobility and help the flow of traffic. It can only be better.”
Ellsworth police officers were scheduled to be out in force throughout the day in an effort to keep traffic flowing smoothly and to deal with any confusion that stems from the changes in long-standing traffic patterns along High Street, Beckwith Hill and Route 1 near the Triangle.
“Most everybody will be working at some point during the day,” Ellsworth Police Chief John DeLeo said Tuesday. “We’ll keep an eye out in case somebody does turn in the wrong direction.”
Preliminary work for the project has been going on throughout the summer, but the major portion of the $3.3 million project will take place over the next six to eight weeks, according to Beal.
The main component of the project will be on Route 3 southbound, heading toward Trenton and Mount Desert Is-land. That road will become one-way between McDonald’s Restaurant and Myrick Street, providing two travel lanes heading up the hill. North-bound traffic on Route 3 will turn right and be routed onto Myrick Street, which has been reconfigured to handle the ad-ditional traffic. That work has created two left-turn lanes at the intersection of Myrick Street and Route 1 to allow two lanes of traffic to turn left onto Route 1.
Crews now are widening the intersection of Route 1 and High Street to allow those two lanes to flow directly onto High Street.
A temporary traffic light has been installed at the Route 1 and Myrick Street intersection.
In addition, the new entrance to the Maine Coast Mall will be opened to traffic, and left-hand turns from the southern mall exit near McDonald’s will be eliminated.
According to Beal, crews also will reconstruct the entire in-tersection between McDonald’s and Rite Aid including the traf-fic island. They will grind and repave Route 3 to Myrick Street and widen the road from My-rick Street to Beechland Road in order to add a center turn lane in that area.
The area of most concern to police is the section between McDonald’s and Myrick Street, according to DeLeo. The con-cern, he said, is that motorists will automatically make turns to head north on Route 3 in that section of the road.
“People are creatures of habit,” he said. “They’re used to going to China Hill and then turning left and heading down the hill.”
Construction crews will have cones and barriers in place to direct traffic at all ends of the construction area. Police offi-cers, including an officer on motorcycle, will be posted throughout the area to deal with problems, DeLeo said.
The project was conceived in response to commercial devel-opment interests along Myrick Street, Beal said Tuesday. The area is the only designated commercial development area in the town, she said, but devel-opers balked at building proj-ects because of the state Trans-portation Department’s requirements for extensive and expensive road improvements.
“The first developer in would be responsible for bringing the road up to current standards and making it able to handle the traffic for their project,” Beal said. “Nobody wanted to be first. So the city decided that we would bring the road up to current standards and when a project comes in, the only thing they have [to] deal with is the traffic they bring in.”
Those developers pay a pro-portional development fee that will help to cover the cost of the project, she said. In addition, the area has been designated as a tax increment financing zone, which allows the city to ear-mark a portion of the tax reve-nues from development in the area for this and other eco-nomic development projects.
“We’re hoping to create well-paying jobs in other areas of the city and to develop a more di-verse city than we have now,” Beal said.
Work on the project is ex-pected to be completed by the end of October.