March 19, 2012

Final public hearing on I-95 exit plan

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- At a final public hearing about the proposed $11 million modification of Interstate 95's exit 113 and upgrading of part of Old Belgrade Road, attendees will see few changes from the draft proposal shown in October.

The Maine Department of Transportation scheduled the final hearing for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, March 29, in the Lecture Hall at Augusta City Center.

At the meeting, DOT personnel and others plan to explain the effect of the road project, which would carry Route 3 from I-95 to Routes 8, 11 and 27, also known as Civic Center Drive. The project includes the creation of two traffic circles and improvements at intersections.

The project is fully funded with contributions from all levels of government as well as MaineGeneral Medical Center.

The plan gained federal approval after making a case that it would relieve heavy congestion at exit 112, which connects to Civic Center Drive less than a mile to the south and would allow for further development of an area designated by the city as an economic growth zone.

The roadway design puts traffic circles on the east and west sides of I-95 to allow exit 113 to function as a full interchange. Exit 113 now permits drivers to go only east on Route 3. Westbound motorists on Route 3 can go north or south on the interstate.

"For the most part, we're still on track with what we've provided at the preliminary public hearing," said Ernie Martin, project manager with the DOT's highway program. "We've kept it on track with what we originally proposed."

Once everything is finalized, the state hopes to advertise for bids in December or January, with a completion date of November 2013, which is before the projected opening of a new regional hospital under construction by MaineGeneral Medical Center.

Martin said the design has been peer-reviewed successfully -- a requirement to gain city support.

Part of the road construction involves creation of an 8-foot shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists, etc., between a section of Old Belgrade Road beginning at the entrance to a cul-de-sac and running to a traffic signal that would be installed at the hospital entrance.

While the path is set to stop there, there would be a 5-foot shoulder on the roadway for walkers and bikers, Martin said.

Martin said the right-of-way process will begin once the plan is complete and all the construction limits are set.

The state has acquired two private residences and is taking some vacant land for the project. Some temporary construction rights also will be needed, Martin said.

The only remaining issue appears to be figuring out a way for local snowmobilers, mostly members of the North Augusta Trailblazers, to get across the highway and hospital land.

"I think we've done a pretty good job addressing all the issues and being transparent in the process, which always makes people feel comfortable," Martin said.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

 

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