ELLSWORTH, Maine — Maine’s $3.6 billion stimulus package request to President-elect Barack Obama could include money that would complete improvements on heavily traveled Route 1A in Ellsworth.
The state Department of Transportation already plans to rebuild a 3.38-mile section of the road running from the Union River Bridge in Ellsworth Falls north to the intersection with Old Bangor Road later this year.
That two-year project would still leave a 2.7-mile stretch of road running north from Old Bangor Road that needs improvement, according to DOT project manager Ernie Martin.
“There’s still a gap that could be worked on if we get the stimulus,” Martin said Wednesday. “That last piece could get completed.”
Route 1A is a heavily traveled road linking the Bangor-Brewer area with Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island.
Traffic counts from 2006 indicate the average daily traffic on the road was about 12,000 vehicles, Martin said. Projections for 2009 estimate that figure will increase to about 13,000 vehicles. Between 10 percent and 14 percent of those vehicles are trucks, Martin said.
Gov. John Baldacci, in a letter to the president-elect this week, urged substantial investment in traditional infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and buildings, as well as nontraditional infrastructure items such as fiber-optic communications and electric transmission lines.
The largest chunk of the $3.6 billion request would target school construction and repairs, while the second-largest investment, $500 million over two years, would target roads and bridges in the state. The planned work on the 2.7-mile section of Route 1A would cost an estimated $5.5 million, Martin said.
Although the nationwide stimulus package has become a priority for the new administration, Martin said it seems unlikely that the work would be done this year. Even if Congress moves quickly to approve the stimulus funds, Martin said the department already has a lot of work planned for roads in Hancock County and would not begin work on that project this year.
In addition to the work already planned for Route 1A, the department also plans work at the head of Mount Desert Island, including relocating the existing traffic light there and work on Bridge Hill in Ellsworth at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 172 (Surry Road).
“These are major arteries,” Martin said. “There’s only so much you can do and not hamper the traveling public.”
The work that is planned for Route 1A this year will cause some disruption along the busy route, Martin said. The $7.8 million project is in the final design stages and calls for full construction along the 3.38-mile section of road to bring it up to current standards, including 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders. Although Martin said the travel lanes are 12 feet wide, the shoulder areas are not up to current standards.
“They’re supposed to be 8 feet,” he said. “But they haven’t been maintained over the years.”
The project also will involve realigning the road in some areas as well as some cutting to improve sight lines. Ledge in the work area will involve a significant amount of blasting during the project.
“This should improve road safety along the road,” he said. “It should be safer for bikers and walkers along that shoulder.”
The project will disrupt traffic on the road and the DOT plans to detour traffic onto the Old Bangor Road during part of the construction time. Martin said they hope to minimize the impact on Route 1A traffic and to minimize the use of Old Bangor Road as well. Once plans are completed, he said, a meeting will be scheduled to discuss those issues with the public.
The DOT schedule calls for the project to go out to bid sometime in May. Once the contract is awarded, work would start sometime in August or September, he said. The project is scheduled as a two-year job and would be completed in 2010.