Downtown construction, lane closures are precursors of big changes in Bangor

Posted July 01, 2014, at 6:44 p.m.
Last modified July 01, 2014, at 8:05 p.m.

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BANGOR, Maine — Construction season has reared its head on Main Street this summer.

Crews from S.E. MacMillan have been working to replace about 3,500 feet of aging water lines underneath Main Street. On Tuesday, that work forced them to close down a lane of traffic and several side streets in order to pour concrete into gaping trenches outside the Cross Insurance Center.

They’re closing in on the terminus of the Bangor Water District project — Dutton Street — with just a few feet remaining as of Tuesday evening, but more construction is scheduled to start soon after that heavy equipment leaves Main Street.

Along this same stretch of road, the city and Maine Department of Transportation are collaborating on a project to overhaul the roadway, making it safer for pedestrians and the thousands of people who attend events on the Bangor Waterfront or at the Cross Insurance Center.

That project will mean widening the sidewalk on the river side of Main Street, refurbishing sidewalks along about 3,000 feet of roadway, improving lighting, and installing a litte more than 1,000 feet of raised medians between opposing lanes of traffic in the five-lane roadway.

The main goal of the project, according to the Maine Department of Transportation, is to improve pedestrian safety. The area has seen a steady rise in pedestrian traffic in recent years. Hordes of people attending concerts and events along the waterfront cross the road to get to their cars after events. Vehicles traveling the five-lane stretch of road also tend to exceed posted speed limits. Those factors, combined with poor lighting along some parts of the road, can make for dangerous conditions, Department of Transportation officials have said.

These medians should slow down traffic, give pedestrians a “shelter” while crossing four lanes of traffic and improve the aesthetics of the street, officials say.

Meanwhile, in the heart of downtown Bangor, where Main Street meets Hammond, State and Central streets, a separate project has forced traffic trials of its own. As part of the West Market Square revitalization effort, crews are digging under the square and Main Street to replace sewer lines that date back to the Civil War era and water lines that are almost as old.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, construction crews shut down the downtown portion of Main Street so they could dig deep underground to replace the sewer.

Director of Public Works Dana Wardwell said that should be the last time that has to happen during the course of this project.

“Hopefully that will be the last time we have to shut down Main Street there,” Wardwell said.

In about three weeks, most of the “deep underground work” will wrap up, and some of the heavier equipment will move off site as crews move on to work closer to the surface.

The West Market Square effort is expected to wrap up in September.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.