ROCKLAND, Maine — Old County Road, which stretches nearly six miles from Rockport to Thomaston, is a narrow street lined at several places with abandoned limestone quarries.
Over the years the road also has become a busy bypass for Route 1 and that trend is expected to quicken with the anticipated opening next year of the Walmart Supercenter in Thomaston.
Concern over the road’s condition has led to the creation of a committee representing Rockland, Thomaston and Rockport to study possible improvements to Old County Road.
The Mid-Coast Regional Planning Commission has agreed to work with the three communities to come up with recommendations to improve the road that runs from Route 1 in Rockport near where Pen Bay Medical Center is located south to Route 1 in Thomaston near the intersection of Route 131 which leads to the St. George peninsula.
The goal is to submit a plan next summer to the Maine Department of Transportation.
“Due to funding limitations at the state level, there is no guarantee of what improvements will be made or the time frame for making such improvements,” planning commission Executive Director Eric Galant stated in a letter to the three communities.
The Rockland City Council was scheduled Monday night to appoint two members to the committee that will come up with plans.
“Retail and residential development in all three communities has exacerbated traffic conditions,” Galant stated in his letter to the communities.
The 2010 traffic count found that on an average day, nearly 7,800 cars traveled on the Rockland section of the road, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
When Wal-Mart received approval to build a store in Thomaston, the Maine Department of Transportation required that the company pay $10,000 to Rockland to be used within two years for traffic calming measures on Rockland’s stretch of Old County Road and two nearby streets — Limerock and Oliver streets.
Rockland officials expressed concern last year during review of the project and the effect on Old County Road. That road is expected to be a shortcut for many people to reach the store that will be on Route 1 in Thomaston.
Thomaston Town Manager Valmore Blastow said Old County Road has been the unofficial Route 1B for the past 30 years. He said drivers will always look for the shortest route and that changes as there is economic development.
He said he expects Thomaston will appoint its representatives at its next selectmen’s meeting. He noted two of the board’s selectmen — Greg Hamlin and Jon Eaton — already serve on a Midcoast Transit Committee that is studying the possibility of local bus service. He said the two selectmen likely also will be named to the Old County Road committee.