BANGOR, Maine — The summer traffic has slowed to a crawl at certain points in the city as summer road construction projects are diverting drivers from their normal routes.
Hammond Street is arguably ground zero for Bangor’s road work as three different construction crews are repairing sections of sewer lines, adding on to the underground natural gas pipeline, and replacing the old pavement with 2 inches of new paving.
“When we started looking at this project, we were looking at the sewer system there, portions of which are 100 years old, and there were several sections that were in danger of collapse or partial collapse,” said Art Morgan, who was promoted to Bangor’s city engineer in late June to succeed Jim Ring, who retired.
That information was discovered before the repaving project began, and since Bangor Gas Inc. already had disclosed plans to expand its underground lines in the area, Morgan and Bangor’s engineers drew up a plan to get all the projects done at once.
“We found another contractor to repair those sewer sections, and Bangor Gas is installing three crossings on Hammond Street at Royal, Butell and West Broadway,” Morgan explained.
Gardner Construction Enterprises of Bangor is handling the sewer line job at a price of $95,000. The Lane Construction Corp.-owned Wardwell Contracting is handling the $911,999 paving project.
“It’s what we call a mill and fill — grinding off the old pavement surface 2 inches down because it’s in such poor shape,” Morgan said. “If we just repaved over it, all the cracks would transmit right up through the new layer.”
Workers also are reinstalling curbing to improve water drainage.
The Hammond Street project has been active for three weeks and is expected to continue for about four more weeks.
“I thought the whole thing was going to last a month, but I just talked to Art and he said it would be around the end of August when they’d be done,” said former Bangor City Councilor Dan Tremble, who owns Fairmount Market and The Corner Store on Hammond Street. “The last couple days have been a little slow and we’re usually quite busy this time of year, but things are fine. People can get on and off the street with no problem and our parking’s unaffected.”
Merchants up and down Hammond voiced little complaint about the activity and said disruptions in traffic and customer flow have been kept at a minimum.
“The city’s been very cooperative and we’ve not had any issues. I think they’ve done well,” said Fairmount Hardware Store owner Sheldon Hartstone. “You’ve got enough merchants on this street that they’re not going to do anything to disrupt all the business.”
Both Hartstone and Morgan estimated it has been 10 years or longer since Hammond was repaved.
“It’s been awhile,” Hartstone said. “And when it’s all said and done, we’ll have a nice wide, paved street all the way down to the interstate.”
Hammond Street is one of a few Bangor road projects in the works.
“Our Hogan Road project is still in the design phase, but we hope to have it out to bid very shortly,” Morgan said.
That project will involve paving Hogan Road from the Interstate 95 overpass to Miguel’s Mexican restaurant.
Several downtown streets will be repaved, some with a new, porous pavement that will decrease instances of hydroplaning and allow more rainwater to permeate into the pavement and divert it away from storm drains.
That’s in addition to another road project that started at the end of June.
“We’re installing high-speed communication conduit line to give downtown more broadband service,” Morgan said.
Lines will be installed on utility poles where possible and underground on Hancock and Oak streets and proceed all the way down Hancock to Exchange and from Exchange to York to offer broadband service to the banks and the Penobscot Judicial Center on Exchange Street and to parts of State Street.
“Also, we’ll be going down Park Street Hill below City Hall and Harlow Street, then the northern side of State, and then on to Franklin on Harlow,” Morgan said. “They’ll be boring [underground] in some spots, but not all.
“There were some stretches we were planning on repaving anyway, so we’ll follow that work along with the paving as it goes.”
New traffic islands and parking spots for the Penobscot Judicial Center also will be created.
One project that’s almost done is a new sidewalk and crosswalk at Odlin Road and I-395.
Funding for the projects is coming from three main sources.
“We have a million dollars’ worth of other pavement projects coming from the city’s general fund or community block grants,” Morgan said. “Money spent on paving is federally funded with a 10 percent city match.”
Funding for the sewer projects is coming from the state’s revolving loan fund, which is federally funded.
“But we [city of Bangor] have to pay it back as a low-interest loan,” Morgan said. “You’re seeing most projects right now that are being funded by federal funds with a 10 percent match.”