ELLSWORTH, Maine — Crews have begun working around the clock this week on the Route 1A reconstruction and widening project while state and local officials vowed to keep motorists informed about its progress.
The $18 million project is part of a systematic, long-term plan to bring the road up to modern standards, according to Maine Transportation Commissioner David Cole. Improving the corridor, which runs between Bangor and Ellsworth and serves as a gateway road to Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park and Down East Maine, was the No. 2 priority in a survey of six economic development and regional planning groups, he said.
Cole noted that the current seven-mile reconstruction will complete the corridor between Brewer and Ellsworth which serves as a key route through the region.
“This corridor is very important to the region and the rest of the state,” he said. “Route 1A through Ellsworth is one of several key routes for tourists and residents going to and from the popular Down East and Acadia regions,” Cole said. “These necessary improvements will make this deteriorating highway wider, safer and smoother for years to come.”
Working with the city and the Ellsworth Area and Bar Harbor chambers of commerce, DOT has developed a public outreach campaign designed to reach commuters, tourists and residents. In addition to radio spots and print ads, DOT will also use posters, maps and other means to keep motorists and business owners updated on the project.
Area residents can sign up for regular e-mail updates at the DOT website, http://mainedot.gov. The city will continue its weekly updates on the project, and the Ellsworth Police Department regularly uses its Facebook page to alert motorists to unanticipated delays or changes in the project.
The two Chambers will use materials developed with the DOT to keep business owners updated on the project and also will use e-mail updates, according to Micki Sumpter, executive director of the Ellsworth Area Chamber.
The road had not had any major upgrades made to it since 1940, according to DOT project manager Ernie Martin.
“That means it’s been 70 years since the road has been brought up to modern standards,” he said.
It is a very busy road, with between 12,000 to 14,000 vehicles a day, 12 percent of which are trucks.
The project extends work that has been done in the past in Dedham and will add 12-foot travel lanes with 8-foot paved shoulders.
Crews from Lane Construction and the Sargent Corp. generally will begin work at 7 p.m. Sundays and end at 7 a.m. Saturday.
The around-the-clock schedule was designed to lessen the impact on motorists and reduce the number and length of delays they will run into during the construction. The heaviest traffic travels the road between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Martin said longer delays will be scheduled during the evening hours when less traffic is on the roads. The exception to that general rule will be approximately 30 blasting events planned during the summer construction. Those have to be done during the day, Martin said, and will create delays of 15 to 30 minutes.
There also will be two weekends during the summer when Route 1A will be shut down completely. Traffic will be detoured along Red Bridge Road during those closures.
The bulk of the construction should be completed by this fall, according to Cole, although there will be some finish work to be completed next spring.