Sunday, March 9, 2014
AUGUSTA -- The regulatory permitting process is nearing an end for the $11 million road construction project designed to allow north and southbound motorists using Interstate 95's Exit 113 to reach Routes 8, 11 and 27.
That means work on reconfiguring the exit could begin early next year.
The state Department of Transportation has applied for a permit under the Natural Resources Protection Act. Depending on the number and nature of public comments submitted, the Department of Environmental Protection can schedule a public hearing.
The application notes that the project affects wetlands -- in particular the area of the roundabout to be erected on the east side of I-95 -- and the state proposes to pay more than $158,000 to the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Fund to mitigate the effect.
Everything is on track to advertise for bids from contractors in late December, and motorists should be driving on the new roundabouts in November 2013, just before the anticipated opening of MaineGeneral Medical Center's new regional hospital on Old Belgrade Road.
"We're coming down the home stretch," said Ernie Martin, DOT project manager. "Right now we're buttoning things up, fine-tuning things with our design."
He said several internal reviews of the project are under way.
The project, which will connect Route 3 with Route 27, also known as Civic Center Drive, involves widening and rebuilding Old Belgrade Road and parts of Bog Road, Middle Road and Route 27 in northwest Augusta. It will involve making turning lanes, realigning intersections and installing of traffic signals.
Site work would could begin as early as January, but that would be weather-dependent.
"The earliest would be March or April. That's what my gut is telling me about Mother Nature," Martin said.
Samantha Depoy-Warren, director of communications for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the department received the application Tuesday. It will be checked for completeness, she said, which can take up to 14 days; then it will be evaluated.
It's not the first time the DEP has seen the application. The previous form was a look at the project as a whole. Now it's a closer view of the effect on wetlands.
The application, which is available for the public to see at Augusta City Center, includes a number of color photos of a culvert that carries Stone Brook under Old Belgrade Road and several marshy areas. A larger culvert is to be installed as part of the project.
Funding for the project is coming from three sources:
* $6.6 million from the Maine Department of Transportation,
* $3.2 million from MaineGeneral Medical Center, and
* $1.2 million from the city of Augusta via a tax increment financing deal.
The DOT already has held a series of public meetings about the construction project, which MaineGeneral Medical Center administrators proposed five years ago. The new hospital site is adjacent to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care.
The area also has been designated for future development because it is near the Marketplace at Augusta and the Central Maine Commerce Center, and it is aimed at reducing traffic congestion at Exit 112, one exit south.
Martin said he and others working on the project meet regularly with other stakeholders, including representatives from the hospital and the city.
The right-of-way process has begun, and transportation officials are talking to property owners about taking for permanent or temporary use pieces of land around the construction area.
The state already has acquired several homes and some vacant land for the project.
Betty Adams -- 621-5631