July 22, 2018
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Controversial midcoast projects included on Maine’s transportation to-do list

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
The Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham can be seen in this April 2016 file photo.
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By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff
Updated:

BOOTHBAY, Maine — A $3.3 million roundabout that caused conflicts among townspeople in Boothbay last year is one of several projects included in a $2.3 billion work plan released earlier this month by the Maine Department of Transportation.

Later this year, the department expects work to start on the roundabout on Route 27 at the intersection of Corey Lane and Back River Road.

The project, approved by a narrow margin by Boothbay voters in November 2016, was proposed by developer Paul Couloumbe, who in 2008 built a waterfront estate on nearby Southport Island and has since invested tens of millions of dollars redeveloping various properties, including the Boothbay Harbor Country Club.

Couloumbe, well-known throughout the state as the former owner of White Rock Distilleries, also offered to help fund the project, which the transportation department and town officials say would improve safety at the intersection. But opponents charge that the roundabout is really designed to benefit another of Couloumbe’s proposed developments adjacent to the area.

In November 2016, Boothbay residents voted to pay $1.5 million for the project, with Coulombe to pay the same and the state funding $1 million, the Boothbay Register reported.

About 45 minutes south, the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which carries Route 201 over the Androscoggin River between Topsham and Brunswick, is slated for a $15 million “improvement” in 2018-19. But whether the 1937 bridge is replaced or repaired remains undetermined after various groups in both towns objected to a state plan to replace the landmark green structure.

Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said Friday that such projects typically receive 80 percent of their funding from the federal government and 20 percent from the state.

The three-year work plan also allocates $17.5 million for projects at Brunswick Executive Airport — the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Those projects include construction of a 10-unit “T-hangar,” an “itinerant box” hangar, a corrosion control/de-ice hangar and installing solar power in hangars.

Two other plans, in Wiscasset and Brunswick, will try to address traffic bottlenecks on Route 1.

In Wiscasset, $5 million is slated for “downtown improvements at various locations” in 2018-19. After years of discussions about a potential bypass ended, the transportation department proposed and then voters selected a plan designed to speed stalled summer traffic along Route 1.

But opponents of the plan argue that a new local vote is required because the department opted to forgo federal funding, some say to allow the project to skirt federal historic and environmental restrictions.

Farther south, the Maine Department of Transportation has allocated $1.35 million for 2018-19 to rework the intersection of Route 1, also known as Pleasant Street, with Stanwood and Mill streets in Brunswick. The project would add auxiliary turning lanes at the intersection, often referred to as the “gateway” to Brunswick.

 


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