BANGOR — It’s normal to see all manner of aircraft around Bangor International Airport.
This summer, there’s been a different kind of vehicle multiplying in that area: construction equipment.
Several projects are underway along Maine Avenue and Godfrey Boulevard and at the airport itself.
The project most obvious to drivers is the construction site at Maine and Godfrey, where a roundabout is being built by Hughes Bros. to supplant the former four-way intersection. (Those heading to the airport should allow an extra five to 10 minutes for construction delays.)
Why a roundabout, more frequently seen in large metropolitan areas?
Bangor City Engineer Art Morgan explained, “It allows for a continuous flow of traffic, which reduces delays and accident rates. Operating a roundabout is less expensive as well. It’s a very efficient way to move multiple lanes of traffic through an area.”
The roundabout is the second one in Bangor, following the one on Maine Avenue built in 2007.
Morgan also detailed the difference between a roundabout and a rotary. “A roundabout has a smaller radius than a rotary, which requires you to slow speeds. The entrance to a roundabout is controlled by a yield sign, rather than the stop sign at a rotary, so the delay to enter is much less,” he said.
Both designs differ considerably from the small circle on Howard Street, which is actually a “traffic-calming device,” meant to slow down speeds on that residential street.
The project, which has a price-tag of just under $1 million, began in early June; Morgan hopes it will be completed by early September. The roundabout already taking shape, but there’s grading, filling, and paving still to go, Morgan said.
After the roundabout is built, Maine Avenue will be repaved by Lane Construction, going .57 miles from Vermont Avenue, around the first roundabout, and across to Griffin Road. That project should run from the first or second week of August through mid-September, Morgan estimated.
Don’t expect roundabouts to become a trend in Bangor.
“There’s only so many spots it would work,” Morgan said. “It’s not a silver bullet that would fix every intersection’s woes.”
Going up nearby on roughly 3½ acres at the corner of Maine and Florida avenues is the new home of Bangor Natural Gas (formerly Bangor Gas).
The 15,000-foot structure, being built by Blane Casey Construction of Augusta, will consolidate the two parts of the company’s Bangor operation: the sales office on Main Street and the service center in the Target Industrial Circle park.
John Coons, manager of marketing and sales for Bangor Natural Gas, explained why the location is perfect for his company. “We were not only looking for high-traffic volume and exposure and a permanent home in the area, but also to be on a high-pressure steel line so that we could install a natural-gas filling station, which may come to fruition shortly. That way we can fill fleets of vehicles with compressed natural gas.”
Construction of the building began in early June and should be completed by November, Coons said.
The airport itself has become a construction zone as well. The Sargent Corp. is rebuilding about 50 percent of the general aviation apron. The ramp, which was originally part of Dow Air Force Base, will be revamped to upgrade its underground drainage system and strengthened to allow use by larger aircraft.
The $5 million project is 90 percent funded by the federal Airport Improvement Program, with the other 10 percent split between the state (7.5 percent) and the city (2.5 percent).
Airport Director Tony Caruso said that the project has meant a lot of coordination and rearranging during summer, the busiest season for general aviation. He estimated that the project, which started in May, will be completed by October, if the weather cooperates.
Another Airport Improvement Program project is the upgrading of three-quarters of the field lighting to LED lights with all-new bases for better visibility and illumination and expanded life, Caruso said.
The $360,000 project should be done by early August, he said.