LINCOLN, Maine — Voters will decide in November whether to approve allocating $1.2 million to widen much of West Broadway no sooner than 2016 as part of a $1.8 million plan, town officials said Monday.
The Maine Department of Transportation is in the process of signing a letter of understanding that would allow the state to pay $600,000 of the $1.8 million bond. Town leaders hope to raise the rest of the money without using local tax funds, said Ruth Birtz, the town’s economic development coordinator.
The road widening would establish a center turning lane from the Hannaford Supermarket lot to River and Transalpine roads. It covers about a mile of West Broadway, which is one of the town’s main business arteries. Town officials see the project as a job and business creator that will broaden Lincoln’s appeal as a service hub to the Lincoln Lakes and Katahdin regions, Birtz said.
The widening would effectively free about 254 acres for business development along West Broadway and near Transalpine while making the road safer, said David Cole, a former Maine DOT commissioner who is helping Lincoln officials with the project as a private consultant with David Cole Consulting of Brewer.
“It really is the development corridor of Lincoln,” Cole said of West Broadway. “If you look around at Lincoln at the other corridors leading into the community, there isn’t a lot of land available for development. They have been developed.”
“If you look to development for the next 30 years, that would seem to be your development corridor. Traffic has increased to the point where it has become a burden for developers to get access to the highway,” he said.
The mile of road that would be widened has about 107 acres of business development representing about $13.5 million in investments and drawing about $250,000 in taxes to Lincoln annually. The businesses employ 667 people.
An equal rate of investment on the 254 acres could spur more economic development. Developers could pay the road widening costs themselves but have balked because the traffic impact fees range as high as $250,000 — too much for them to pay individually, Birtz and Cole said.
Town officials hope to use tax-increment financing funds drawn from an agreement with Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, state aid and grants, and interest from town investments, Birtz said.
“The town of Lincoln does not have a history of sitting back and waiting for [economic development] things to happen, yet we have to always be watchful for our taxpayers that we don’t have increases in mill rates like we had last year,” Birtz said Monday.
The Town Council awaits comment from the town’s attorney on the referendum question that will go on the November ballot. Treasurer Melissa Quintela is also beginning to assemble the financing package for the road work for councilors to review, Birtz said.
The plan was among several economic development initiatives former Town Manager William Lawrence helped start.
Voters should support the initiative, council Chairman Steve Clay said.
“I think it is very important because any business in the future that wants to go in on West Broadway will have to pay quite a [traffic] impact fee, which discouraged them from investing out there,” Clay said Monday.
The project design and engineering process would take about a year to complete before construction could start, Birtz said.