May 27, 2018
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Homeowners question MDOT reps about Hampden reconstruction

Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Swartz | BDN
Traffic flows on Route 1A where the road crests Waterworks Hill in Hampden. During a June 25 public meeting held at the Hampden Municipal Building, Maine Department of Transportation representatives unveiled initial plans to rebuild 1.56 miles of Route 1A (Main Road North) from downtown Hampden north to Mountain View Road.
By Brian Swartz, Of the Weekly Staff

A Maine Department of Transportation proposal to rebuild 1.56 miles of Main Road North (Route 1A) drew scrutiny during a public meeting held at the Hampden Municipal Building on June 25.

Late last years, two MDOT surveyors spent several weeks surveying Route 1A from the traffic light at Western Avenue north to Mountain View Drive. Interviewed at that time, MDOT Project Manager Paul MacDonald indicated that the road had not been reconstructed since the 1930s. The survey took place because “we need to know exactly where everything is” before a pending construction project can start, he said.

The MDOT surveyors surveyed “all the existing conditions there” while “doing what we call a ‘topo,’” a survey that includes distances and elevations and every object within the MDOT’s right of way, MacDonald said last winter. The survey identified the locations of buildings, driveways, fire hydrants, stone walls, trees, and utility poles.

Working with the survey’s information, MDOT mappers then designed a preliminary map unveiled at the June 25 public meeting. The highly detailed map encompassed the 1.56 miles of Route 1A that the MDOT wants to rebuild from Mountain View Road to a point just east of the new Dunkin Donuts, located near the Western Avenue intersection.

Among those invited to attend the public meeting were abutting property owners, contacted by a June 11 letter signed by Rhobe Moulton, the MDOT project manager assigned to the Route 1A project. She attended the meeting, as did MacDonald and Kevin Ducharme, P.E., a consultant designer and associate with T.Y. Lin International.

The meeting’s purpose, according to an MDOT press release, was “to listen to concerns, receive comments, and answer questions from anyone with an interest in the project.” A court reporter recorded the questions and concerns raised by different people; according to Moulton, this information will help MDOT engineers in determining the road’s final design.

Before opening the meeting to questions, Moulton described the basic project, and Ducharme explained the proposed design as portrayed by the wall-mounted map.

As proposed, a reconstructed Route 1A would feature two 12-foot travel lanes, two 6-foot paved shoulders, and a 5-foot paved sidewalk on the west side. Curbing could be installed where abutting land is higher than the roadway, and existing driveway openings would be left in place.

According to MacDonald, the MDOT will engineer the road to meet a “20-year design life,” meaning that Route 1A would not require additional major reconstruction for at least 20 years after the project has been completed. Some 7,000 vehicles currently use the road daily; the MDOT estimates the traffic count will rise to 8,500 vehicles per day in 20 years, MacDonald indicated.

One property owner claimed that the MDOT had planned to rebuild Route 1A beginning in 2005; he asked when the current proposed 1.56-mile project might start. Responding to this and other similar questions, Moulton and MacDonald stressed repeatedly that no construction date has been set; neither could they predict when construction might begin.

The project has been funded only for engineering studies, according to MacDonald. Because the project’s final design has not been determined, he could not estimate the construction costs. Speaking after the meeting’s adjournment, MacDonald did note that the MDOT currently spends about $3.2 million per mile on similar reconstruction projects.

Other concerns included losing gardens and trees and placing mailboxes in the sidewalk, as was done on the Bangor end of Main Road North some years ago. Several property owners strongly criticized the mailbox installation and asked Moulton not to let a similar situation occur.

According to MacDonald, the project would maintain the current “alignment from the center line,” although in places the MDOT does own wider rights of way. Minor reconstruction could take place at the Dudley Street intersection, which the MDOT does not want to align with Coldbrook Road; doing so would require extensive property taking.

Reconstruction would bring this section of Route 1A up to modern highway standards, according to Moulton. During the 1930s, the Maine State Highway Commission rebuilt the road with a concrete surface; subsequently covered by asphalt, the concrete would be removed as it has during reconstruction elsewhere along Route 1A between Winterport and Bangor.

Moulton indicated that a final design plan should be available this fall. The MDOT will schedule a formal public hearing in the future.

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