The federal government has awarded nearly $27 million to fund three transportation infrastructure projects across the state.
That includes a large sum — $7.3 million — going directly to the city of Waterville, where the funding will bolster the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize its Main Street, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, which announced the awards.
“Improving Maine’s transportation infrastructure is one of my top priorities. I am delighted to announce this $26.6 million investment that will benefit communities across the state,” Collins, the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement. “These projects will enhance the safety and efficiency of our transportation network while growing our economy and helping Mainers reach their homes and jobs more quickly.”
In Waterville, the award will help fund a $9.2 million project to convert two downtown roads from one-way to two-way streets, improve intersections and update sidewalks. The funding will also help the city complete its riverwalk project.
The $1.5 million riverwalk along the Kennebec River features a lighted boardwalk, gazebo, large interactive children’s play area and art installations, according to the Waterville Morning Sentinel. The riverwalk opened to the public in September and was dedicated in early October. Work is still ongoing on the project, the Sentinel reports.
“This grant will be a catalyst for a safe, beautiful, and vibrant Main Street. Our downtown businesses will prosper with these changes and job growth and opportunity will continue to be the cornerstone of Waterville’s resurgence. This is a great day for the city of Waterville and for all those who are committed to seeing this community thrive,” Colby College President David A. Greene said in a statement.
Downtown Waterville has been the focus of a number of projects over the past year, including the introduction of free public WiFi in May. The Central Maine Growth Council announced on Monday a grant program for downtown businesses looking to restore, renovate and repair their buildings. Waterville Creates! is working with the city and Colby College to redesign Castonguay Square. A Colby College alumni in February donated $1 million for a community space within a new student residence being built downtown.
Three years ago, Colby College entered into a partnership with the city to revitalize downtown Waterville.
The other projects receiving federal funding include $11 million for a Maine Department of Transportation project to repair and resurface three key roads in Kingfield, Woodstock and Fryeburg. The $22 million project also will improve drainage along the roads, as well as add features to improve pedestrian safety.
Another $8.2 million will go to separate Transportation Department project to replace and enhance 104 of the 804 traffic signals across the state. That project will cost $16.5 million.
David Bernhardt, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the grant awards demonstrate that improving the state’s transportation network is about more than road bridges, and that improving a vast network of infrastructure is “crucial to help keep Maine’s economy moving forward.”