City, state to share cost of road work

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WESTBROOK — The city and the Maine Department of Transportation will share the cost of improving three of the most heavily traveled roads in Westbrook.

The council Monday gave preliminary approval to enter into partnerships with the Maine Department of Transportation to split the cost of milling, paving and sidewalk reconstruction at the Cumberland Mills traffic circle as well as splitting the cost of rehabilitating a 1-mile section of Stroudwater Street from William Clarke Drive to Landing Road.

The city is expected to pick up $225,000 of the $450,000 cost for the Cumberland Mills resurfacing and $275,000 of the $550,00 cost for the Stroudwater Street work.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said money has already been secured for new traffic signals at the Cumberland Mills intersection, where Main Street, Cumberland Street, Warren Avenue Harnois Avenue meet, but that project does not include resurfacing work.

“To undergo a $1 million (traffic signal) project and leave the surface unimproved would not be well received,” he said at the Aug. 6 meeting.

The work on Stroudwater Street will include repaving, curb and sidewalk rebuilding to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and catch basin and manhole adjustments, according to Katherine Kelley, manager of Public Services’ Wastewater Division. The street, she noted, was last totally repaved in 1996 and  has only received maintenance work in the meantime.

The heavily traveled street serves as Westbrook Public Safety’s primary route to Mercy Medical Center and Maine Medical Center in Portland and a route for commuters in the greater Portland area.

Councilor Victor Chau said he would like to see the crosswalk at the intersection of Stroudwater and Forest streets, which is near the high school’s tennis courts,  outfitted with a beacon to help motorists see pedestrians crossing there.

Vice President John O’Hara said while he understands the need for the resurfacing and improvement work, he would rather see the city’s paving focus  be on neighborhood streets, such as Haskell Street, which he called “undriveable some days.”

Focusing only on commuter routes “has to come to an end. It’s got to be the neighborhoods first,” he said.

O’Hara said the city spends “very little improving our infrastructure and it shows.”

Last year’s budget included $1 million in paving and restructuring work throughout the city, but Bryant acknowledged O’Hara’s point that the more heavily traveled roads do get more attention.

Bryant said if the city can leverage the Cumberland Mills and Stroudwater Street work with state and federal money, “we have more local money to spend on the streets Councilor O’Hara referred to.”

The council also gave preliminary approval to partner with Maine Department of Transportation and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to finish the William Clarke Drive improvement project that was started eight years ago. The work, Bryant said, is the continuation of the $5 million improvement project that took place between 2010 and 2011.

Plans call for the construction of an additional westbound lane of traffic and improvements along William Clarke Drive from Mechanic Street to Conant Road. The city is expected to foot $577,763 of the project’s total $2.3 million cost.

“This was part of the design from day one, but there was not enough money to get beyond Mechanic Street,” Bryant said.

The roadway opened as Wayside Drive in 1970 as a Main Street bypass. It was renamed William Clarke Drive, after the city’s long term city clerk, in 1994.

Because traffic heading towards Gorham on William Clarke Drive has to merge from two westbound lanes to one after Mechanic Street, that section of roadway often gets congested during the evening commute.

“From a congestion standpoint, this is the biggest construction project in the city. I know people sitting (in congestion) in Cumberland Mills in the morning say ‘No, we are.’ They are both important projects and they are both congested-alleviating projects,” Bryant said.

Bryant expects the projects to get underway next construction season. The construction must begin within 18 months and be completed with 36 months of a final agreement. The agreements still need to be approved at a second reading. The council meets next on Monday, Aug. 20.

“All of these are, quite honestly, very much needed, but all of them cause pain, especially when you are dealing with Route 25 and Stroudwater Street, high traffic volume roads,” Bryant said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

The city is looking to resignalize and resurface the Cumberland Mills traffic circle through a partnership with the Maine Department of Transportation. The project wouldn’t be started until next construction season. (File photo)

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