HERMON, Maine — As the Maine Department of Transportation finished rehabilitating a portion of Route 2 this week — albeit a smaller section than was originally approved — Hermon leaders expressed concerns that it’s nothing more than a Band-Aid on a knife wound.
“I know every town says they have the worst road in the state. Well, someone has to actually have it and it’s us,” Town Manager Clint Deschene said Monday. “We appreciate the work, but it’s a waste of money.”
A 6-mile stretch of Route 2 from the Bangor line to near the Cold Brook Road was scheduled for reconstruction. Then the state trimmed millions and millions from its budget and MDOT had to cut projects. Hermon was on that list.
So, instead of 6 miles, MDOT is repaving only about 2.5 miles, and instead of reconstructing the road, crews will just put 5/8 inch of pavement on top. Instead of about $1 million, the project will cost $250,000.
“We understand that we should do more, but unfortunately it’s the only tool we have,” MDOT Regional Manager Dale Doughty said.
The prep work and drainage improvement effort already has been finished and Doughty said the repaving wrapped up on Monday, ahead of schedule.
Route 2 is heavily traveled both by commuters and by commercial trucks forced off the interstate. A pilot project that would exempt heavy trucks from federal weight limits could divert some of those vehicles off Route 2, but Deschene said the damage already is done.
“When the budget cuts hit, we knew we would lose some, but how can you overlook a road that gets 10,000 [daily] trips and I don’t know how many heavy trucks?” Deschene said.
Additionally, Deschene said that section of Route 2 hasn’t seen any work since 1998. Before that, you have to go back to 1981.
MDOT officials were sympathetic.
“If we don’t do something, it gets worse,” department spokesman Mark Latti said.
The Route 2 issue has come up recently at Hermon Town Council meetings, and Deschene said about 80 area businesses have signed a petition indicating support for a full construction project.
There is the possibility that funds would be appropriated for Route 2 in Hermon if voters pass a $71 million transportation bond package in November. Deschene worried that it won’t be enough.
“This Band-Aid project is going to do more harm than good,” the town manager said. “People will assume that road is fine, but then next spring, we’ll be right back where we were.”
MDOT officials believe the patch job will last longer than that.
“That road tends not to last as long, but we’re hopeful to get a couple years out of it,” Doughty said.