ELLSWORTH, Maine — Crews have been at work in the past week tearing up old, deteriorated sidewalk along Bridge Hill in preparation for installing a new section of sidewalk in its place.
The city project will extend the new section of sidewalk installed by the Maine Department of Transportation when it redesigned the intersection of Routes 1 and 172, and carry it all the way to the Bridge Hill Apartments.
According to Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal, the work on the sidewalk on Bridge Hill is long overdue.
“There’s a lot of activity there, people walking into town,” she said. “It became a safety issue. The sidewalks were so deteriorated that people were walking in the road.”
As an added benefit on Bridge Hill, Beal said that the DOT would pave the road along the length of the sidewalk project, improving a stretch of Route 1 that also has deteriorated over the years.
The Bridge Hill sidewalk is not the only one in town that is in need of repair or replacement. In some areas, the sidewalks have been unattended for so long that they have “disappeared,” Beal said.
“We’ve ignored them forever, unfortunately,” she said.
A city bicycle-pedestrian — or bike-ped — committee has studied the city’s sidewalks and created a priority list for areas where sidewalks need help, and other areas lacking sidewalks that need them. Part of the criteria included areas with high pedestrian use and a high level of deterioration.
The city will tackle part of that priority list this summer.
“There’s a lot of sidewalk work going on,” Beal said.
Areas targeted for improvements include School Street, State Street from Central Street to the courthouse, a section of Shore Road from State Street to Pond Avenue, and Pond Avenue.
On Pond Avenue, Beal said, the city plans to add a sidewalk as part of a larger project to improve water and sewer lines. The city rebuilt a short section of that road last year in conjunction with the construction of the new elementary-junior high school.
In addition to improving the sidewalks so they are safe to walk on, Beal said, the city also is looking at providing online links to the downtown area and safe paths for youngsters to walk to school. Much of the work this summer focuses on areas around the city’s schools, and the city expects to begin constructing a new sidewalk on a section of Oak Street later this year, Beal said. That project is being funded through an $80,000 DOT Safe Routes to School grant.
The project will extend a sidewalk on Oak Street, which was constructed several years ago as part of the improvements to the Fork-in-the-Road project at the intersection of State and Oak street (Route 1A). It will extend the sidewalk along Oak Street to the city basketball court.
The engineering work on that project has been completed, and once DOT officials have approved the design, it will be ready to go out to bid, Beal said. Construction likely will begin this fall.
City councilors earlier this month authorized the city’s planning department to apply for an additional $122,000 in Safe Routes funding to extend that sidewalk. If approved, the grant would allow the city to continue the sidewalk down Oak Street to Church Street.