If June 2011 sounds like a long time to wait for the Bangor-Ellsworth highway upgrade to be done, it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, the Department of Transportation is doing a good job keeping things moving.
Widening and rebuilding the 6.5 miles of Route 1A just north of Ellsworth involves much grading and occasional blasting. Huge boulders marked with white X’s await removal by heavy equipment. Meanwhile, lines of orange cones and barrels mark two-way lanes where possible and, where neces-sary, one-way lanes, sometimes constructed along the dirt shoulder.
So it’s a bit bumpy at times, and there are waits when lanes are closed. At rush hour, the trip can require an extra half-hour, but it should be nonstop all the way if you make the trip before road work starts at 7 a.m. or after it now ends at 3 p.m.
Dale Mayo, whose title is project resident, says lane closures are scheduled to last no longer than 20 minutes and there may be as many of three of them at any one time. Recent experience shows that delays usually are far shorter than that. They may be longer when actual road construction begins next spring.
Bangor Hydro is well along with the job of setting 220 utility poles back 15 feet from the present poles. Scott Richards, line superintendent for the Hancock division, says there are 19 to go and the Hydro lines should be shifted to the new poles by January, weather permitting. Then the various fiber optics, cable and telephone lines will be restrung probably by next May. Hydro has stopped blasting when a pole must be set in a granite ledge. A special drill now does the job, taking 1½ hours to go down the necessary six or seven feet.
Of course, no one likes to stop for one-way traffic, and sometimes there may be longer delays, for example when blasting is in progress. Some motorists choose to avoid most of the work area by taking detours.
When the whole job is finished and these inconveniences are over and done with, the Bangor-Ellsworth route will be smooth and fast, with 12-foot travel lanes and generous turn and passing lanes. It also will have 8-foot shoulders to provide room for breakdowns and for police cruisers to pull over speeders.
It will also be safer, which should make it worth the wait.