Woolwich elected officials express anguish over Station 46 bridge replacement

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Woolwich selectors are voicing concerns about the Station 46 bridge replacement project. The Wiscasset newspaper has been invited to meet with two of the five members of the selection committee and the Highways Commissioner on January 8 in l outside the municipal office.

“Maine Department of Transportation officials told us the project would cost around $ 30 million, with almost all of it to be paid for with federal funds. We are asking them to provide the city with $ 300,000 so that we can make improvements to the Nequasset and George Wright roads, which are owned by the city and which the MDOT wishes to use during construction. coach Jason Shaw said. “Our discussions have been going on for two years now, the project is starting to gain momentum and we still don’t know where we are with them.”

Shaw said MDOT officials canceled a meeting with the board of directors and the highways commissioner scheduled for Jan. 12 at the municipal office. “I got a phone call from the Station 46 project manager late last Friday, the meeting was on hold. He told me that our lawyer should meet with their lawyer to try to resolve the situation. It’s really sad to come to this. Very disappointing.”

Selectboard president David King Sr. called it “infuriating” and unprecedented. “In the past, we have always had a good relationship with them. They plan to divert large amounts of traffic onto our roads during the construction of the new bridge and that is a serious concern for us and the Highways Commissioner, ”he explained standing outside with Shaw near the Historic town meeting house at the intersection of Nequasset and George. Wright’s roads.

“You can see from the ruts in the shoulder of the road that it’s a sharp turn for motorists coming from either direction of George Wright Road. The sidewalk goes up to the town office and fire hall, ”King continued, pointing to the municipal building. “When the MDOT traffic engineers came here last spring at our invitation, we showed them this corner and pointed out the problem with the elevation of the road. We felt that there were safety concerns regarding the increased traffic here. They initially agreed with us and promised to provide the city with $ 90,000 to widen that corner and correct the rise. Now they are backing down.

King called it frustrating that he was unable to find a compromise. “They know this road is one of the busiest in town. The municipal building, the fire station and the old meeting house are located here. This is partly why the flashing warning light was placed on the street at the intersection of Route 1. The road is not that wide at the start, and there are times during meetings or during the meeting. vote where cars are parked on both sides. Our first responders have expressed concerns about the safety of fire trucks and ambulances inside and outside the station.

During a first public briefing on the project in November 2019, MDOT officials pledged to keep traffic on Route 1 during most of the bridge’s construction. They warned, however, that motorists would sometimes be diverted from the project area to Route 127, a state road that joins Route 1 just past Cumberland Farms. They have since said that a temporary traffic light will replace the flashing warning light at the intersection of Highway 1 / Nequasset Road. The signal will regulate traffic, including school buses that will go to the elementary school on the west side of Nequasset Road. Traffic lanes are also provided here.

Roads Commissioner Jack Shaw has reservations about the scheduled traffic light. “Honestly, I think it’s a bad idea if they don’t also lower the speed limit on Highway 1. Right now it’s 55 miles an hour. For me, this is a source of concern. Shaw added that he is also concerned about wear and tear caused by additional traffic on city-owned roads as motorists search their own route to avoid construction delays. “The Old Stage Road and the other side roads were not built to handle high volumes of traffic. The city will probably have to pay to fix them.

Council also wants MDOT to reconsider plans to close the south end of George Wright Road, which intersects with Highway 1 on the north side of the bridge. “If they shut it down for good, we need to know if they will allow us to build a new entry point about a quarter of a mile north of the current intersection,” King said. Thirteen months ago, the city spent $ 69,000 to purchase two acres of land and requested state assistance to build a connecting road between George Wright Road and Highway 1. The connecting road requires approval from the MDOT and the townspeople, but for now it is pending. “If they end up closing the south end of George Wright Road, we want them to pay for the construction of a recovery area there,” King said.

“We are extremely disappointed,” added Selectman Shaw. “They tell us they want our contribution to the bridge replacement project; we provide it, and it’s like they haven’t listened to what we’ve said. “

The Wiscasset newspaper asked the MDOT to comment via email on the cancellation of the January 12 meeting and whether the MDOT is planning another public briefing on the project. MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill responded on Monday: “MaineDOT project staff are still planning to meet with city officials as soon as possible. Early last week we learned that the city was involving an outside legal advisor, ”Merrill wrote. “Based on this change, we postponed our January 12 meeting until our lawyer can meet with the town lawyer. We plan to reschedule our project staff meeting with city officials after the preliminary lawyers meeting.

“Even if the city has not yet presented to MaineDOT a clear request for modification of traffic on this project, the department is open to modifications. Any agreed work will be done by the department and / or its contractor, and the cost will be covered by the department, ”Merrill wrote.

The selectboard is thinking about its next move. “My initial recommendation will be not to sign the documents allowing MDOT to use our roads during the project,” King said. The week of January 10, the full board will meet to discuss their options with lawyer Kristin Collins. “We could explore the possibility of filing an injunction against the closure of the George Wright Road / Route 1 intersection. It is far from over,” King added.

In November 2019, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, chair of the Transportation Credits Subcommittee, announced that MDOT would receive $ 44.6 million from the federal BUILD program, of which $ 25 million would go to the estimated $ 30 million for replacing the station 46 bridge. In a press release, Collins called the two-lane bridge just north of the Taste of Maine restaurant as a “vital link” between the Bath Iron Works shipyard and the northern points.

According to the MDOT, an average of 19,000 motorists use the bridge built in 1933 to span the Maine Central Railroad and a saltwater marsh created by the Sasanoa River every day. The bridge was found structurally deficient on its last inspection with large areas of rust damage to its lower decking and steel support structure. Rather than refurbishing the bridge, the engineers of the MDOT project chose to replace it. The project is in the initial start-up phase and is expected to take approximately 24 months. The speed limit on the current bridge is 35 mph but increases to 55 mph in the northbound lane.

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