ROCKLAND, Maine — The heavily traveled, quarry-lined Old County Road needs major improvements to handle the added volume of traffic that is likely to result from construction of a Walmart supercenter on Route 1 in Thomaston.
A panel of municipal officials from Rockland, Thomaston and Rockport has come up with a package of recommendations to improve the roadway since it was formed in December.
The report from the 2013 Old County Road Micro-Corridor Management Plan calls for the immediate reconstruction and realignment of nearly two miles of the road from its intersection with Route 1 in Thomaston to Dexter Street which is expected to receive substantially more traffic when the new Walmart opens early this fall.
Old County Road stretches for six miles from the intersection of Route 1 in Rockport near Pen Bay Medical Center to the Route 1 intersection in Thomaston near Dragon Products cement plant.
The recommendations have been sent on to the Maine Department of Transportation.
Among the recommendations the panel suggests need more immediate attention include straighten a dangerous S-curve near the intersection with West Meadow Road, rebuild nearly 2 miles of the road on the Thomaston side, and widen the passing lane at the Dexter Street intersection.
“The current roadway is too narrow with crumbling shoulders and poor drainage. This has been on the Maine DOT work plan since the 1990s or earlier and should be included in the Old County Road rebuild,” the report states.
The entire road should be repaved, the panel stated.
Two additional traffic lights also are recommended for a pair of intersections along the road. Full traffic lights are called for at Route 1 in Thomaston and Limerock Street in Rockland.
A flashing light should be installed at the Dexter Street intersection, according to the panel.
The report also proposes turning lanes should be added at the intersection of Route 17, while the intersection with Route 1 in Rockport should be redesigned.
The report indicates that Thomaston’s comprehensive plan calls for construction of a new road, parallel with Route 1, that would run from Beechwood Street to Old County Road.
“This alternate road is critical for emergency service and for a reduction in congestion in the Thomaston Village,” the report states.
This new road is a long-term project, the report states, but planning could be done along with the rebuilding of Old County Road.
The report also calls for investigating where there may be tunnels or caves that might extend from the former limestone quarries that are located alongside the road under the Old County Road.
One of those caves was to blame for a collapse of a section Old County Road in Rockland near the Rockland Golf Course in February 2010. The state filled in that 65-foot deep sinkhole, but the road was closed for 46 days and cost the state about $250,000 to repair.
At the time, state officials said there could be other such tunnels along Old County Road.
Speed limits on the road need to be analyzed and existing speed limits enforced, according to the document.
“Speeding of private and commercial vehicles is common and puts vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and residents with property on Old County Road in danger of personal injury and property damage,” the report states.
The recommendation is to reduce the speed limit on those sections of the road that are now 40 mph to 35 mph both in order to lower the limit and keep it consistent.
There are no cost estimates for the work proposed to be done.