Rockland mulls bond for Old County Road repairs

Rockland is considering whether to borrow money to repair a stretch of Old County Road.
Stephen Betts
Rockland is considering whether to borrow money to repair a stretch of Old County Road.
Posted March 24, 2014, at 8:31 a.m.
Last modified March 24, 2014, at 4:50 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The city may consider whether to seek voters’ approval to borrow money to repair a heavily traveled crumbling road.

Interim City Manager Tom Luttrell said he has asked the engineering firm of Gartley & Dorsky to come up with cost estimates of repairing Old County Road from Thompson Meadow Road to Route 17.

When he gets that information, Luttrell will share it with city councilors, who will then decide whether they want to schedule a bond referendum. The council would need to take an initial vote on holding a bond referendum by early April to ensure enough time to place a question on the June 10 ballot.

The city is also exploring possible state assistance. The state could contribute up to $500,000 per project per year, Luttrell said.

The estimated cost of repairing three miles of the road has previously been estimated at $3 million, but the stretch under consideration for repair covers a little more than one mile.

Councilors have said that they are receiving considerable complaints from residents about the road’s poor condition.

The Maine Department of Transportation reports that the average daily number of vehicles on the road in 2010 was more than 7,700. City officials have said they expected traffic to increase when Wal-Mart opened in Thomaston.

Rep. Elizabeth Dickerson, D-Rockland, who is also a city councilor, said she will make repairs to Old County Road a top priority of her work in Augusta.

“It seems that years have gone by with the executive office of the state of Maine either holding up bonds that could be used for vital transportation and infrastructure repairs, or lack of money at the state level, or budgetary philosophies that preclude infrastructure improvements being passed on to the towns, or some of all of the above. Meanwhile, Old County Road, which is a state road, continues to deteriorate to a dangerous situation. We can wait no longer,” Dickerson said.

The voter-approved bonds that Gov. Paul LePage has yet to authorize do not contain any funding directly related to repairs of Old County Road.

She said nearly everyone in Knox County travels that road.

Mike Burns, regional manager for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the state has been working with the city on how to address Old County Road.

Burns pointed out that Old County Road is considered a state-aid road, for which the state will perform basic paving, but that the state categorizes Old County Road as a lower priority than three parallel roads to Old County — Route 1, Route 1A and Route 90.

“From a statewide perspective, we have limited money to spend,” Burns said, adding that Old County Road falls down on the list.

Old County Road mainly serves local traffic, while most through traffic uses the other parallel routes, he said.

The state will be investing $10 million on two Knox County Route 1 projects over the next few years, he said. The state plans to rebuild nearly 1.4 miles of Route 1 in Warren this summer and next year and then another 2.2 miles in Thomaston in 2015 and 2016.

The state is willing to assist Rockland through a program called the Municipal Partnership Initiative, Burns said. Through that program, the state would match up to $500,000 of what the city spends. The earliest that could be done, however, would be 2015, he said.

In the interim, the city could do a skim coat of paving, he suggested.

Old County is lined at many places by former limestone quarries and is not built to modern road standards, including its width, Burns said.

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