BANGOR, Maine — The same economic woes that forced Bangor city officials to put off needed paving work for years has provided them an opportunity to smooth out many rough spots over the next 18 months.
Although budgetary concerns haven’t waned this year, Bangor city councilors and city department heads put their heads together and found a way to make ongoing adverse economic conditions work for them.
The result is a $2.5 million road and sidewalk project that will begin late this summer, continue through 2013, and result in the repaving of 11.8 miles of Bangor roads.
“Back in March, the council sat down with Dana Wardwell [the public works director] and Art Morgan [the city’s civil engineer] and talked about where we are in our paving,” said City Manager Cathy Conlow.
Where they were was way behind schedule.
“Ideally, road pavement will last about 10 years before it needs some maintenance,” said Morgan. “Through a course of unfortunate circumstances which drove the price of paving up over the years, we began to reduce the amount of road maintenance we were doing each year. So instead of repairing a road every 10 years, we were doing it every 20.”
At the same time, Morgan added, the federal law regulating heavy truck travel over Interstate highways changed, forcing more big rigs to use county and city roads, further breaking them down.
“We rely heavily on our engineering and public works department and they went through several road evaluations and took into account their usage and driver volume,” said Conlow. “We had gotten into a mode of deferring projects over the years, but realizing this is something people really wanted, [councilors] committed to looking more long term.”
The project, which will begin with preparation work this fall, involves paving all or parts of 30 different roads, streets, avenues, lanes, courts, and sidewalks in Bangor. Some of the main streets in that mix include Buck, Essex, Fifteenth, Ohio and French streets; Burleigh, Griffin and Sylvan roads; and Webster, Husson and Stillwater avenues.
“The interest rate we’re paying on bonded money gives us a real opportunity to make up for lost time,” said Morgan. “As far as evaluating which roads to pave, we always maintain a list of the roads that need attention. These are the ones in most need and they’re also — for the most part — very heavily traveled.”
Bangor Finance Director Debbie Cyr said it’s the first major repaving project by Bangor since the early 1990s. That was done via a state jobs bond program.
“As part of the annual budget process, the council viewed this as a significant opportunity to make a major investment in our road system due to historically low interest rates right now,” said Cyr, who added that the term for the loan would likely be 15 years at around 2.5 percent.
Morgan said while some of the work may start this year, most of it will be done next year.