BANGOR, Maine — Next construction season could create some challenges for Bangor commuters, but could bring a fresh look and improved safety to Main Street.
During an Infrastructure Committee meeting on Oct. 7, councilors backed a series of road improvement projects, largely funded with state and federal money.
One of the more visible changes will be a $1.2 million project to build a median along a roughly three-quarter-mile stretch of Main Street from Dutton Street — which serves as the main entrance to Cross Insurance Center — to Cedar Street, near Bangor Police Department. Workers also will widen the sidewalk on the side of Main Street closest to the Penobscot River, according to Art Morgan, director of public services for the city. That will help accommodate the heavy foot traffic that accompanies a Waterfront Concerts event or festival along the waterfront.
Morgan said the median will slow down drivers and give pedestrians a place to “take refuge” while crossing multiple lanes of traffic, as well as improve the aesthetics of the road.
The Maine Department of Transportation has approved $960,000 worth of federal and state funds for the project. The city will cover the remaining $240,000.
The details of that design are still in the works, as the city is trying to figure out where the breaks in the median should be located to allow for access to businesses along the route, according to Tayna Emery, director of economic and community development for the city. The city also will weigh where it might want to locate crosswalks in the area, according to Morgan.
The project is tied to neighborhood revitalization efforts in the West Side Village, which stretches from Main Street west to Third Street and from Buck Street north to Union Street. City officials also have called the area the “Main Street Corridor,” and trumpeted it as an entertainment destination because of Hollywood Casino, Waterfront Concerts and the Cross Insurance Center.
“We certainly want to connect the neighborhood to the waterfront,” Morgan said.
The committee also supported a $432,000 road resurfacing project along Main Street from Cedar Street to Patten Street. That will be funded by 90 percent state and federal funds, 10 percent local. The city likely will approve a number of other paving projects across the city during its next budget process.
Another project planned for next year will dig up the downtown portion of Main Street to replace aging underground infrastructure. That work will be done in correlation with the West Market Square renovations, but should be completed in a few weeks, while the full West Market Square project could continue through the entire construction season, according to Morgan.
Another $282,000 Maine Department of Transportation project will review, design and engineer improvements to traffic signals and pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Ohio and Hammond streets. The city will cover 10 percent of that cost, with the state and feds footing most of the bill.
The city hasn’t determined the schedule of the projects and will explore ways to minimize effects on traffic on the heavily traveled roadway, Morgan said. The city could use detours, such as the one that has been used to accommodate the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge project, to reroute some of the traffic if needed. Morgan said he doesn’t believe the city will need to close any roads to complete the work. The full City Council will still need to approve the projects.
“We’re anxious to get the work started as soon as spring weather allows,” Morgan said.
The city also plans to take a fresh look at Bangor’s most heavily traveled stretch of road — Broadway. The road sees some 24,000 vehicles per day from the Interstate 95 entrance to Griffin Road, one of the city’s most congested traffic areas.