ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors on Monday approved the $155,000 purchase of a State Street home to make way for a new driveway to Ellsworth High School.
City Manager Michelle Beal said the purchase of the 2.5-acre 277 State St. property will allow the city to eliminate the current high school entryway and its traffic light by creating a new four-way intersection at State Street and Forest Avenue.
That intersection also will relieve traffic created by Ellsworth’s new K-8 school, accessed by Forest Avenue, which Beal estimates has added about 600 cars to area traffic each day.
The current high school entrance “is very odd, very difficult,” Beal said. The traffic light was built at the entry to an abutting apartment complex but isn’t aligned with that facility’s entrance, making for an awkward traffic flow.
The city first considered engineering a new driveway four years ago but put the plan on the back burner when cost estimates for the driveway and related utility work approached $1 million.
Beal said the purchase of 277 State St. will drop that price dramatically by eliminating the need to call on eminent domain, a costly legal maneuver that would have allowed the city to put the driveway through the property without buying it.
To save money, the city will wait until the Maine Department of Transportation comes to tear up State Street from the Union River Bridge to High Street. Beal said the state is drawing preliminary plans to redo that stretch of road, and when it does, the city will lay the stormwater, wastewater and other utility lines necessary for the new high school driveway.
“This makes it so much easier to design what we need to design, take the rights we need to take, and then decide whether we’re going to utilize the building,” said City Council Chairman Gary Fortier.
Beal estimates the state will come to raze the road in two to four years. In the meantime, she recommended the city use the home on the property for fire training.
“And by fire training, I mean burn it,” she said after the meeting.
Follow BDN reporter Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.