BREWER, Maine — The pavement is down on the new Betton Street, which has been moved to align with Parker Street to create a safer four-way intersection on North Main Street. The former intersection of Betton and North Main used to have the city’s highest crash rate.
In the past, “you kind of had to do kind of an S-turn, and that was not a good arrangement,” City Engineer Frank Higgins said Thursday. “It’s a recipe for problems.”
The Maine Department of Transportation is overseeing the work, but it is mostly funded with leftover federal earmark funds allocated to Brewer to improve the city’s main traffic corridor.
In addition to aligning Betton and Parker streets, the project also includes adding a parking lot where Betton Street was located, moving a traffic signal at the bottom of steep Bridge Hill, making Center Street -way, and improving sidewalks and better marking the parking areas on North Main Street.
“The light at Center Street, the lights at the bottom of the Bridge Hill, are going away,” Higgins said. “They are going to be moved down to Betton Street. That’s now going to be the main Route 15 connector between North Main Street” and the Penobscot Bridge into Bangor.
The traffic signal at the bottom of Bridge Hill has “always been a problem, with vehicles stopping or starting right at bottom of that hill,” he said.
At the end of the project, Center Street will become one-way with parking on both sides of the street, and sidewalks will be handicapped-accessible.
“The last thing we’re going to do is mill the pavement between State Street and Wilson,” which will create a fresh driving surface, Higgins said.
A majority of the funding for the $700,000 DOT project is coming from approximately $650,000 left over from a $1.75 million 2005 federal transportation bill earmark that the city received to improve South Main Street, also known as Route 15, and other areas along that corridor.
The state hired RF Jordan of Ellsworth to do the work.
Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development deputy director, said the city had to supply a small match to use the federal funds.
“We’re excited the project … is finally under way,” she said, adding that the improvements to the area already are visible. “We hope this will have a positive impact for existing businesses and residents.”
The project started a month ago and is ahead of schedule, Higgins said.
“It’s going great,” he said. “The schedule says we’re supposed to be done in October, but it looks like we’ll probably beat that by a month, if the weather holds up.”