ELLSWORTH, Maine — Road crews have begun gearing up for work on the major rebuild of a seven-mile section of Route 1A between Dedham and Ellsworth, and the state Department of Transportation is alerting drivers that they should expect delays as the project gets into full swing.
“Like most projects, we’re starting up slowly, then all of a sudden we’ll be going full force,” DOT project manager Ernie Martin said Thursday. “That’s when you’ll see more lane closures and delays.”
The project calls for a widening of the seven-mile stretch beginning at Union River Bridge and continuing north to Wilson’s Corner, creating 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders.
According to Martin, the $18 million project is an extension of the widening the department did on the road in 2004 and 2005. The state is using transportation bond funds and federal stimulus money.
Once completed, the project will provide a wider highway on the heavily traveled road.
“This will make it safer for the traveling public; there will be a place for the bike-ped folks to bike and walk, and it will be safer for enforcement people who will have room to pull people over,” he said. “The department and the local [legislative] delegation have pushed hard to get that corridor completed.”
Last season, crews cleared and widened the road and also did drainage and utility work, including moving utility poles for the widening. Crews this year have begun work on waterlines, which is being done for the city of Ellsworth.
The main focus of the project this summer is the full reconstruction of the road, including the removal and milling of pavement and digging down 2 to 3 feet to create a new road base.
The old pavement will be recycled for other DOT projects around the state. Initially, the department planned to use the recycled pavement to pave Red Bridge Road, which will be used as a detour during the times when the project will close Route 1A completely. Those closures will occur on two weekends later this summer, Martin said.
DOT still plans to pave the Red Bridge Road, but will use other materials for the paving, he said.
The delays along the road are expected to be longer than they were last summer, Martin said. The department is developing a communications strategy as a way to keep drivers informed about what is happening on Route 1A and other construction projects in the area.
“There’s a lot of work taking place on 1A, Route 1 and Route 3; all the area around Ellsworth,” he said. “This is a major gateway area and it affects a lot of areas.”
The communications strategy will include regular fliers to local businesses as well as using media outlets, including the Internet, in order to keep the public informed. Advertisements and announcements will alert drivers who work in certain areas so they will know where the delays will be and can plan other routes, Martin said.
“We know there are going to be backups,” he said. “We are trying to minimize them occurring as much as possible.”
Plans call for the bulk of the project to be completed by the fall. Martin said crews will be back in the spring of 2011 for cleanup, seeding and other finish work.