FALMOUTH, Maine — A long-planned, $12.3 million construction project that will change the face of the U.S. Route 1 business district will begin the week of May 5.

The Route One Infrastructure Plan was the subject of a short presentation to the Falmouth Town Council on Wednesday, April 16. The council also voted to replace a pedestrian bridge at River Point Conservation Area, at a cost of $400,000.

Public Works Director Jay Reynolds said Tuesday that construction equipment will begin arriving for the Route 1 project as soon as Monday, April 28, and work will begin in earnest the following week. Contractor Sargent Corp. will post signs along the work zone as part of its preliminary work.

Reynolds said it’s unclear whether the contractor will begin construction on the southern or northern end of the project area, which stretches between the Route 88 and Bucknam Road intersections.

The town is also developing a means to “provide up-to-date communications to all interested parties throughout the construction process,” Reynolds said.

A week earlier, the Town Council heard an update on the project from Councilor Russ Anderson, who serves as chairman on the Community Development Committee, the group that devised the business district revamp.

Anderson said the lowest bid on the project came in at $1 million higher than the budgeted amount. As a result, the committee scaled back the design by reducing elements that could easily be added later, such as the number of trees, benches and street lights.

The committee also reduced by another increment the distance that utility lines will be re-routed underground. Late last year, the plan was to bury those lines from Waldo’s General Store to Bucknam Road. After the latest revision, the lines will remain above ground for another 100 yards north of Waldo’s, Anderson said.

The original plan called for the lines to be buried from Route 88 to Bucknam Road, but that distance was reduced in December to meet the budget estimate at the time.

Changes to Route 1 and the surrounding business district have been discussed for at least three years. Voters in June 2013 approved by a slim margin an $11.7 million bond for the project. Another $600,000 will be paid by the state.

The bulk of construction will be done this year. Remaining work will be completed in summer 2015.

The improvements are meant to encourage a village-like atmosphere in the business district, with pedestrian walkways and attractive landscaping. The work will also help control storm-water runoff to reduce pollution of nearby waterways.

Pedestrian bridge

The council voted 6-1 to erect a $400,000 pedestrian bridge at River Point Conservation Area to span the railroad tracks and provide access from the parking lot at West Falmouth Crossing to the public land.

The council’s discussion centered around whether to construct a 10-foot- or 6-foot-wide bridge to replace the existing wooden structure, which is nearing the end of its usable life.

A 10-foot bridge would have allowed emergency vehicles to access the site, but would have cost the town an additional $50,000. Instead, the councilors opted for the 6-foot bridge, which meets the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Councilor Karen Farber successfully argued that providing emergency vehicles access to the recreation area along the Presumpscot River would have been inconsistent with other town properties, where woods and steep terrain prevent access.

Councilor Chris Orestis cast the lone opposing vote. The River Point property is accessible from another entry point farther south, which, in Orestis said makes the pedestrian bridge unnecessary.

The cost of the project will be paid from the town’s undesignated fund.