YORK, Maine — A Maine Department of Transportation official said the department has gone back to the drawing board, after “unique” resistance from the town of York to take over maintenance of a 3.5-mile stretch of Route 1 from the state.
“This is really the first community that’s raised the issue to this level,” said Dale Doughty, head of the Maine Department of Transportation Bureau of Maintenance and Operations.
Maine Department of Transportation and York officials met March 13 and are expected to meet again late this week or early next week to continue discussions about the disputed stretch of Route 1. The Maine Department of Transportation claims that the area from Mr. Mike’s to Cape Neddick has met the density criteria to be in an urban compact zone; when that happens, the state turns over maintenance to a municipality. However, the town maintains the density hasn’t changed and the state should continue to take care of the roadway.
According to Doughty, the Maine Department of Transportation from time to time reviews existing urban compact zones and looks at whether new ones should be created. Maine Department of Transportation engineer Peter Coughlin uses aerial photographs to make his determination, said Doughty. This January, Coughlin turned his attention to York and Kittery — which also is fighting a designation of the Route 1 bypass as in a new urban compact zone.
Typically, a municipality does not question the Maine Department of Transportation’s determination; instead, said Doughty, state and local public works officials will negotiate over the condition of the road and what if anything the state has to do in advance of a maintenance takeover by a town.
York, however, is the first town to question the Maine Department of Transportation’s determination — and it used its own GPS mapping system to show that density hadn’t changed.
Moreover, when GPS manager Brett Horr reviewed other state roads maintained by the town, including Shore Road and Route 91, he found they also did not meet the density requirements of an urban compact zone. Doughty said those roads also will be on the table for further discussion with the town.
Ultimately, said Doughty, according to the law that created the urban compact zones, the Maine Department of Transportation commissioner will make the final determination. Asked if there was any appeal to a court or to a legislative body, he said “we’ve never been through that, so I’m not sure.”
A bill before the Maine Legislature filed by Sen. Dawn Hill of York would require the Maine Department of Transportation to continue to maintain Route 1 in York and the Route 1 bypass in Kittery. It is before the Transportation Committee. No hearings have been set.