Thursday, April 17, 2014
AUGUSTA — State Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt got the most appreciative nods Wednesday morning for his update on road projects in the capital area.
Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt speaks to a Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday at the Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
Staff graphic by Sharon Wood
“There will be a lot going on this summer and a lot going on next summer,” Bernhardt told about 50 people gathered at the Senator Inn & Spa for the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce “Business Insider” breakfast. “It’s going to be hard to get anywhere in the city without seeing orange signs or a flagger.”
That major work includes the nearly $13 million project to link Route 3 with Route 27 and allow Interstate 95’s Exit 113 to function in all directions. Early work on the project already has started.
The project has several goals, including improving access to the Alfond Center for Health — the new MaineGeneral Medial Center regional hospital that’s under construction off Old Belgrade Road — as well as relieving traffic congestion at Exit 112, which serves the Marketplace at Augusta, the University of Maine at Augusta, the Augusta Civic Center and a number of office centers.
Bernardt said the Exit 113 project would be completed by Nov. 8. Jim Hanley of Pike Industries, the contractor overseeing the project, sat at a table in the back of the room, nodding in agreement with Bernardt.
That was reassuring news to MaineGeneral administrators, who were also at the Wednesday morning breakfast. Scott Bullock, president of MaineGeneral Health, the hospital’s parent company, thanked Bernhardt and the department for being a “quarterback in providing leadership” to get the project rolling.
The new hospital, which is between the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and Interstate 95, is scheduled to open Nov. 9.
Afterward Hanley said Pike workers have begun clearing operations and are working with the state on staging various aspects of the project.
It includes creation of two roundabouts as well as reconfiguring intersections along Old Belgrade Road and installing two traffic signals — one at the hospital entrance and the other at Route 27, which is also Civic Center Drive.
Bernhardt said easing the traffic there will open more possibilities for development in the area, and talked of working cooperatively with municipalities and other organizations needing to get road improvements in order to increase business and opportunity.
Funding for the new exit is based on a cooperative agreement between the federal, state and municipal governments and the hospital.
“All of us are excited about the new exit work,” said UMA President Allyson Hughes Handley, who is chairwoman of the chamber’s board of directors. She said the work will benefit the university, which wants more students.
“We couldn’t have done anything ourselves as a single entity,” she said.
Another project that drew approval was major reconstruction of six-tenths of a mile of Western Avenue, between Edison Drive and Prescott Road, a few hundred feet east of the Manchester town line.
“That will help the flow of traffic going to or coming from Manchester,” Bernhardt said.
That heavily traveled section of road, like some others in the city, is pitted with potholes and broken pavement, and residents and business owners in the area have been campaigning for improvements.
The work is due to be advertised in July and finished by March 2014.
“The bulk of the work is scheduled to be done this season,” Ted Talbot, spokesman for the department, said later.
Other roads scheduled for work this construction season include a 10-mile stretch of Route 3 toward Vassalboro and China, part of Route 17 toward Jefferson and U.S. Route 201 between North Belfast Avenue and Route 3, as well State Street from Bond to Winthrop streets. Bids for at least one of the those projects is due April 3, according to information on the state Department of Transportation website.
Bernhardt said reconstruction of Mount Vernon Avenue — another heavily used road that needs work — is awaiting funding in the 2014-2015 budget because it requires major rehabilitation and reconstruction, including new sidewalks and a retaining wall.
Bernardt also talked of other projects, including creation of a sidewalk along Route 27 between the Marketplace at Augusta and Darin Drive. “I’m not sure how they’re going to get it out there under the interstate,” he said.
He also offered an overview of the department as a whole and its mission “to responsibly provide our customers the safest and most reliable transportation system possible, given available resources.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the opening date for MaineGeneral's new hospital.
Betty Adams — 621-5631