MILO, Maine — Here’s some good news for those who have used bangordailynews.com’s “See It. Fix It.” feature to complain about West Main Street: Maine Department of Transportation leaders have agreed to fix a mile-long stretch of West Main and Main streets next year.
The bad news: They might not have the money to keep their promise, Town Manager Jeff Gahagan said.
Main and West Main streets are littered with potholes and ridges along most of their length, particularly the sloping portion between Billington Road and Elm Street that is crossed by railroad tracks and a river flowing between Sebec and Boyd lakes, town officials say.
“The street is horrendous,” Wilma Stanchfield, a member of the Board of Selectmen, said Sunday. “Just about the whole Main Street has a problem. Some of it is better than others. There is a portion of Main Street that is just awful, and going to Dover-Foxcroft, that part of Route 16, is also horrendous … that is getting to be pretty bad.”
The main road network through Milo, Routes 6, 11 and 16, all converge at Main and West Main or run along them, and that’s a major part of the problem, at least according to Gahagan and Stanchfield. They are state roads, so the state, not the town, is responsible for maintaining them.
Town leaders have pushed the state to improve the three major intersections. DOT leaders have said that while they would like to fix the road network, money to do it has been short or greater priorities have been set, Gahagan and Stanchfield said.
“The folks in town are getting frustrated, but we have been fighting for this, myself and the Board of Selectmen, for years,” Gahagan said.
As of Sunday, 36 website readers had indicated that the roads were a problem since the issue was reported almost a month before. Another 39 readers mention Route 16 in Milo.
“The state takes care of it, so it is getting them to fix it that is the problem. It is not a town-maintained [set of streets] and of course DOT says it is funding — they don’t have the money,” Stanchfield said.
Gahagan and Stanchfield are sympathetic to the argument. Given that the high cost of asphalt is driven by the high cost of the oil used to make it, nobody in town government wants to have to maintain the roads there either, she said.
“Heavens, no. The town can’t afford it. We are barely holding our heads above water maintaining the roads we have,” Stanchfield said.
A high volume of trucks supplying area mills and retailers, the slope of the portions of the road and the runoff that creates, the school buses that use it and the railroad crossing’s tendency to trap water all make West Main and Main streets roads that wear out fast and are difficult to maintain.
“The work is just long overdue,” Gahagan said.
With encouragement from Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, and Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, state transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt met with Gahagan months ago and promised that the repair of Main and West Main between Billington Road and Elm Street would occur next year, Gahagan said.
The work repairing the mile-length of road would be extensive and cost $800,000 to $1 million, he said.
Gahagan said he is worried that with state officials discussing cutting back of state services, the road work would not get done this year. Even worse, the town might become responsible for repairing or maintaining the roads, he said.
However, no one has indicated that the work won’t be done, Gahagan said.