ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors have taken preliminary steps for two major projects along the busy Route 1A corridor.
The councilors this week authorized engineering designs for a $2.8 million extension of the municipal water line from Lakes Lane north on Route 1A to beyond Vittum Road and the city’s industrial park.
They also agreed to hire engineers to design an extension of Forrest Avenue that would create a four-way intersection and a new entrance to Ellsworth High School off Route 1A, also known as State Street.
The water line project has been on the city’s drawing board for some time, according to City Manager Michelle Beal.
“It has been included in the capital improvement plan for years, but it just wasn’t economically feasible,” she said.
But with the state Department of Transportation planning to rebuild much of that section of the road, and the state Department of Environmental Protection offering to contribute about $1 million to the water line project, Beal said, the project becomes more affordable for the city. City officials also are seeking other funding sources to cover the rest of the project’s cost.
The project is important, Beal said, because it will bring city water lines to the industrial park, where a number of wells have been contaminated from different sources. According to Beal, the park is located near a former oil transport area, which since has been cleaned, but the oil seeped into the bedrock and contaminated some of the wells in the area. The city’s transfer station has had problems with bacterial contamination, and those around it are not able to use the water from their wells, she said.
Because of the groundwater contamination, the DEP verbally has agreed to commit $1 million to the project.
“It’s important from an economic development standpoint to have this project done,” Beal said. “There are a lot of empty lots in the park.”
She said she hoped the availability of city water at the site would stimulate more interest in the park. Businesses have been interested in the past, but have been reluctant to locate there without city water for fire protection and for some of the industrial processes that were a part of their operations, she said.
The city plans to piggyback its water line project with the DOT’s project to rebuild a section of the road. Work is expected to begin on that project in August or September. The DOT project will involve excavation, which will give the city an opportunity to install water lines while the road is opened, Beal said.
A portion of the water line project — between Lakes Lane and the Union River Bridge — lies outside of the DOT project and will have to be developed separately, Beal said.
“We don’t want to delay the DOT project,” Beal said. “That’s a very important project.”
The councilors agreed to hire Woodard and Curran to design the project at a cost of $170,000.
Meanwhile, the Forrest Avenue project grew out of safety concerns related to the construction of the new elementary school located off that road.
“We felt that, with the new school going up, there will be an increase in the amount of traffic there,” Beal said. “When you add 300 more students to an area, we thought there’s more need for a traffic light there.”
The plan, she said, is to move the existing traffic light from the high school entrance south to Forrest Avenue, and to create a new entrance to the high school by extending that road across Route 1A between EBS and an existing residence, to create a new entrance to the high school.
Although the city developed a preliminary plan, officials need detailed plans before they can proceed with the project.
“We still have permitting to do with DOT and DEP,” she said. “And we have to be concerned with the neighbors. We can’t even talk with the abutters until we have a design.”
Councilors authorized the city to hire Hedefine Engineering of Ellsworth to design the project at a cost of $55,400. Permitting costs will add an estimated $20,000 to that cost, she said. Initial rough estimates peg the cost of the project at $800,000.