May 27, 2018
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DOT’s work on dangerous Woolwich curve doesn’t go far enough, road commissioner says

Christopher Cousins | BDN
Christopher Cousins | BDN
Where an excavator stands on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, used to be where a ledge jutted dangerously within inches of the travel lane on Route 128 in Woolwich. The ledge is being blasted away and removed by a contractor for the Maine Department of Transportation.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

WOOLWICH, Maine — A dangerous curve that has claimed at least one life and has been the site of several serious accidents will be improved by the end of next week, though the town’s road commissioner expressed concerns that the project doesn’t go far enough.

Though Route 128 in rural Woolwich is not a major commuter route, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said the curve in question represented a safety hazard to motorists and especially plow truck drivers during the winter. The stretch of road in question, located about four-tenths of a mile from Route 127, includes a sharp curve and sudden crest in the road. But the most dangerous part about it was a stone ledge that descended to within inches of the northwest-bound lane. The speed limit around the curve is posted at 15 miles per hour, but gouges and streaks on the ledge told the story of many vehicles that have clipped it over the years.

“This has to do with safety,” said Talbot. “Quite frankly the biggest logistical nightmare is for plowing, so we’re getting rid of that ledge.”

The $66,000 project, which was contracted out to Reno’s Excavation of West Bath, involves blasting the ledge with explosives and trucking away the rubble. A crew was working at the site Wednesday with traffic reduced to one lane.

Woolwich Road Commissioner Jack Shaw said the town is not responsible for Route 128 because it is a state-owned road, but that he wishes the DOT would do more than just remove the ledge.

“I think the hill ought to be lowered,” said Shaw. “There have been several bad accidents there and I don’t think what they’re doing is going to prevent the accidents.”

In October 2004, David D’Angelo of Readfield was heading home from his job at Bowdoin College. Though he had traveled Route 128 many times and was known to ride his Honda touring motorcycle carefully, he lost control on the curve and collided with a vehicle traveling in the other direction. D’Angelo, 45, left behind three young children.

Jack Parker is president and CEO of Reed & Reed Inc., a major general contractor with its home plant on Route 128, just over a mile from the curve in question. Reed & Reed constructs on a massive scale, everything from bridges to components for industrial wind farms. Parker said the turning radius on the corner is so sharp that any long vehicle, including school buses, have to creep into the other lane. And because of the steepness of the hill, some of Reed & Reed’s low-bed trailers occasionally scrape the pavement.

“It really was a safety issue,” he said. “It would be helpful for us if that hill were lowered, but the greater problem was the safety issue created by that ledge.”

Parker said he knows of several serious accidents that have happened there over the years, including a head-on collision involving his own sister.

“She was pretty banged up,” he said. “It was really a safety issue. This project will improve it.”

Talbot said the project, which addresses the ledge only and does not involve changes to the road itself, is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 28.

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