ROCKWOOD, Maine — Traveling along Route 15 into the heart of the Moosehead Lake region soon will become easier with the rebuilding of a major section of road this summer.
Complaints by residents that the road had become nothing more than a goat trail and was hurting business have turned into cheers of relief.
“I felt so sorry for anyone bringing up a camper, RV, boat, snowmobile or ATV,” said Bonnie Searles, owner of a set of sporting camps on Moosehead Lake in Rockwood. “It’s been an embarrassment. It was bad enough for all of us local people trying to get to Greenville — so I’m very thrilled that as a scenic highway the state is investing in that road.”
Route 15 from Greenville to Jackman soon will be christened a state scenic byway. The section of road under reconstruction runs from the East Outlet on Moosehead Lake to Rockwood, located 19 miles north of Greenville in the Unorganized Territory.
The last time this section of road was rebuilt was about 20 years ago, said John Rodrigue, assistant project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation.
“This new road will be a lot better for vehicles. It will save wear and tear,” said Rick Cobb, chief of the Rockwood Fire and Rescue Department. “It will help with our response, but there are pros and cons. People will go faster and may hit a moose. It’s a Catch-22. In the long run, it’s better for vehicles. Maybe people will take a ride to Rockwood — see some game — but they don’t feel like pounding their vehicles, so now hopefully they’ll come.
“By the same token, people need to be aware when they’re driving. Animals will still be there regardless. So be careful about how fast you drive,” he cautioned.
Road crews began work on the pitted, potholed and patched old road in July. The project costs $3.7 million. It includes the reconstruction of approximately six miles to Rockwood and a three-mile overlay of asphalt in Shirley. Work is expected to be complete in mid- to late September.
Rod Faloon, paving foreman for Pike Industries, the company hired by the state for the project, said that the old road is reclaimed by digging up the pavement. The pavement is recycled and cement added, which helps to give structure to the roadway, he said. Crews then lay a thick base of the recycled material down and begin compressing the hot mix with huge roller machines, which eventually compact it into a 2¼-inch foundation. Once the base is pressed to reach a specific air-to-asphalt density, another 1¼ inch of paving is laid as a finish surface.
“It’s all about density,” said Faloon, adding that different types of rolling machines are used to compress the asphalt at different stages and temperatures until air pockets in the asphalt are voided.
The quality of a road also depends on the quality of the rock, sand and gravel being used, Faloon noted. In addition, heat and air temperature, as well as paving speed and patterns, are variables in how well the mix reaches the required density, he noted.
On one recent day, there were 29 trucks on the job, with a constant feed of paving material being trucked up from the company’s hot-top plant in Dover-Foxcroft to take advantage of the good weather with no down time.
“This is a full-depth reconstruction,” said Dee Giggey, the MDOT’s on-site quality assurance supervisor, who each day has core samples of the new road taken and tested for density.
Giggey said the new road should last about 15 years.