ELLSWORTH, Maine — Representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation will review preliminary plans for rerouting a section of Route 180 during a public hearing next week.
The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at Ellsworth City Hall.
The department plans to construct a new 1.8-mile section of road generally following an old county layout that begins near the sharp curve on Route 180, or Mariaville Road, at the southwest end of Graham Lake. The new section of road will join the existing Vittum Road for a connection with Route 1A, or Bangor Road.
“It goes out through the woods and connects with the Mariaville Road,’’ MDOT Project Manager Ernie Martin said Tuesday. “It was returned to the property owners [in 1947]. We’ll stay on the old county layout and use the old road bed and turn it into a highway.’’
The planned alignment, which requires an 80-foot right-of-way, could change slightly as the department develops final plans for the project, Martin said.
Although most of the work will be done in undeveloped areas, the project will include a reconfiguration of the intersection of Vittum Road and Route 1A.
Martin said the project will eliminate the crossing at the Graham Lake dam, one of the main goals of the new alignment.
The existing permanent bridge at the dam was closed after a 2006 survey showed it was in extremely poor condition. On a scale of zero to 100, the bridge scored 28.7, Martin said. A temporary single-lane bridge has spanned the river since then.
The department considered a realignment that would have used another bridge to cross the Union River at another location. The proposed alignment would eliminate the cost of building and maintaining a new bridge.
The proposed route will take the road over Grey’s Brook, which will require construction of a smaller bridge in order to avoid damaging a fish habitat, according to Martin. The department plans to use a “bridge-in-a-backpack” for that structure, Martin said.
The method uses new composite technology invented at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. It uses carbon-fiber tubes that are inflated, shaped into arches and infused with resin before being moved into place and then filled with concrete to produce arches that are harder than steel yet resistant to corrosion. Before the tubes are inflated, each arch fits into a sack roughly the size of a hockey equipment bag — hence the “bridge in a backpack” moniker — which makes for easy transport.
Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal said the city supports the project and is pleased that MDOT is moving ahead with it.
“We understand that they have to reroute 180, and the issues surrounding it,” Beal said Tuesday.
The project will have some benefits for the city and its motorists, she said, and could have an economic development benefit as well. It will alleviate the congestion near the North Street/Route 1A intersection, she said, and it will eliminate the temporary bridge, which has been tricky to plow.
The new road also will take Route 180 to Vittum Road right past the city-owned industrial park.
“It’s a state route, although it’s not in the best shape, but it goes through to the Airline [Route 9],” she said. “That’s a route that can be used.”
The new road also will open up a lot of land beyond the Industrial Park, Beal said, which will be a plus for the city.
The two sections of road approaching the dam, will become dead ends, with no passage over the dam. They will become city roads and Beal noted that those sections of road currently are not in very good shape.
“We hope the department will improve the roads before they turn them over to us,” she said.
There are no firm estimates yet on the cost of the project. Martin said he hopes to have ballpark figures ready for the public hearing next week. He stressed that this is a preliminary hearing and that the MDOT will be back later this summer for another hearing once the plans are completed.
The schedule now calls for the project to go out to bid in January 2012 and for construction to begin later that spring.