CARMEL, Maine — Nearly 1,800 motorists who travel the section of U.S. Route 2 from Newport to Bangor have signed a petition demanding improvements to the roadway, calling it “an accident waiting to happen.”
Carmel Town Manager Tom Richmond said Wednesday that the petition has been circulating at the town office and at several area businesses for about six weeks.
As of Wednesday morning, 1,780 people from Carmel, Levant, Etna, Hermon, Stetson, Dixmont, Plymouth and several other towns had signed it, a copy provided to the Bangor Daily News showed.
The petition reads as follows:
“We the undersigned use and travel Route 2 between Newport and Bangor, Maine, on a regular basis. The condition of this road is an accident waiting to happen. We are concerned with the safety of the traveling public over this section of Route 2 due to its poor condition. We request that the [Maine] Department of Transportation give top priority to rebuilding this section of the State Road System.”
Richmond, who held a news conference Wednesday morning on Route 2 to call attention to the petition effort, said he plans to present the document to officials from Maine DOT and to members of the region’s legislative delegation in the near future.
“My intentions are to set up an appointment with them and try to impress on them that we need something done,” he said, referring to himself as a “squeaky wheel” in the matter.
Maine DOT Regional Engineer John Devin said Wednesday that state transportation officials are aware of concerns about the road and are taking steps to address them. The problem is funding, he said.
“We’re aware of those needs and want to address them but we have to prioritize them, and sometimes that’s not what the people who live along a stretch of road want to hear,” he said.
“Sometimes we take a beating, but we do the best we can,” he said.
Devin said that several years ago the department planned to do engineering and right-of-way work in anticipation of a series of improvements on the 14½-mile section of Route 2 at issue, which the state classifies as a major collector route. The plan, however, was shelved for lack of construction funding.
He said the estimated cost of the work four or five years ago was $24 million, or the equivalent of Maine DOT’s statewide construction budget. Today, the cost would likely be in the vicinity of $27 million, which the state is not likely to be in a position to cover in the current economic climate.
Instead, he said, Maine DOT — which is responsible for maintaining 8,500 miles of roadway statewide — will tackle the span in smaller chunks.
The state is in the midst of a $3.7 million bridge project over the railroad in Carmel, he said.
Next summer, the state plans repave Route 2 from the Bangor line to the Cold Brook Road or slightly beyond in Hermon, he said, adding that the next summer, Maine DOT plans to improve the section of Route 2 near the intersection of Billings Road in Hermon.
It also plans in future years and as funding permits to apply several inches of recycled asphalt topped with a thinner layer of hot asphalt mix to sections of Route 2 experiencing rutting and potholes, he said.
Devin said much of the span of Route 2 that is at issue was built on top of a narrow 20-foot-wide concrete base installed in the 1930s or 1940s. As a result, the paved edges on either side “perform differently” in that they become rutted and develop potholes fairly frequently.