HOULTON, Maine — Motorists are marveling over the town’s smoother roads and students walked or biked on newly refurbished sidewalks on the first day of school, but pedestrians and motorists who navigate a handful of other streets and footpaths may have to wait until next year to see them get a makeover.
Throughout the spring and summer, construction crews have rebuilt roads including Bangor Road, one of the worst in town, and sidewalks after years of delaying the work due to inadequate finances.
During a recent Town Council meeting, Town Manager Doug Hazlett noted that crews have done a substantial amount of road paving work.
The town targeted 19 roads for improvement, and work on 12 of them is nearly complete, Hazlett explained.
“We still have some work to do as far as cosmetic work on those  roads,” he explained, indicating that crews would be working to blend the new pavement in with driveways, line the roads and complete other minor work. “But we have got a substantial amount of paving done.”
Historic downtown Market Square had been targeted for repaving, but the project has been put on hold.
Over the past few months, Market Square has become a major construction zone. Crews have broken ground on a $2.5 million project to build a three-story apartment complex in the downtown. Workers also are digging up a portion of downtown roadway to connect the new complex to municipal water and sewer lines.
“We are going to hold off paving Market Square because of that,” explained Hazlett, indicating that paving would take place next year.
The town also has started grading Cooks Brook Road, a gravel route that residents asked to be paved several years ago. Once grading is finished, the route will be topped with recycled asphalt.
Major improvements also have been made to the town’s sidewalks over the past few months, and the work will continue into the fall.
Some of the footpaths will remain untouched until next year, Hazlett told councilors last week.
“We have 22 sidewalks on the list to do and we have 10 sidewalks that are completely done,” he said. “But some of them we are not going to get to this year. We have tried to get all of the roads and sidewalks that are along the school routes done first, and we have done very well.”
The most significant sidewalk project will be on North Road, where sidewalks will be repaired and new footpaths will be created.
The manager said the town wants to get the new sidewalks constructed this year, so the primary focus will be on that effort.
Voters at a special election in March opted to use a $1 million bond to fix local roads and sidewalks in order to make the community friendlier to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
The bond is expected to be paid off over 20 years.
The North Street sidewalk project was funded by a $136,000 allocation from the Maine Department of Transportation. The Biennial Capital Work Plan Enhancement funding from the DOT was matched with $34,000 from the town.
Once that project is done, walkers will see new footpaths from the North Street Plaza to Wal-Mart.
Perhaps the biggest success story this year is the completion of Bangor Street, which has undergone a complete facelift after an eight year battle.
The state-owned route was supposed to be reconstructed in 2001, but a lack of finances at the state level curtailed the project until last year.
Until crews began repairing the road, Bangor Street was riddled with potholes and cracks, was prone to flooding in heavy rain during the spring and was the site of numerous motor vehicle accidents. Although the town’s Public Works Department did its best to patch and repair the route over the years, they could not keep ahead of its deterioration.
While motorists once had to swerve and slow down to avoid potholes, traffic moved uninterrupted on the newly repaired street this week.