Crews are racing to complete the sprawling road work that has snarled traffic around two of downtown Bangor’s busiest intersections and aim to pave the gnarled streets before the temperature drops.
The contracted deadline to finish the monthslong project to unearth and replace 100-year-old sewer, water and stormwater lines beneath State, Exchange, Harlow and Park streets is Nov. 30, City Engineer John Theriault said.
But falling temperatures could move that deadline sooner because workers can only pave asphalt at temperatures above 40 degrees, he said.
“The month of November, we’re going to go crazy with paving,” he said, explaining that excavation work is expected to wrap up by the end of October.
“If winter comes tomorrow, we’re done. But paving plants have historically closed at the end of November,” Theriault said. “I’m optimistic the paving will get done.”
Paving is the final stage of a major project that has narrowed streets, further limited parking and generally disrupted traffic downtown since April, transforming the busy commercial area into an obstacle course of cones, surprise detours, unexpected delays and bumpy patchwork roads.
The excavation continues work that began on Hammond Street east of Kenduskeag Stream bridge last October.
The city pushed the Oct. 15 project deadline back six weeks to Nov. 30 in order to tack on additional work while the contractor, Brewer-based Eastwood Contractors, is on site. In July, the city added underground work on Park Street to the mix, and earlier this month, it contracted to install the underground infrastructure to create heated sidewalks along Exchange Street, according to Theriault.
The added work has increased the cost of the project — shouldered by the city and Bangor Water District — from $2 million to $2.6 million since July. But getting multiple jobs done at once is less expensive and disruptive than opening up the roads twice, the city engineer said.
Theriault acknowledged that opening them once is frustrating enough. Because the work has taken place underground and at night, the construction has gone on with few visible signs of progress, furthering drivers’ fatigue, he said.
What more, the work is also cyclical, Theriault continued. It involves digging up the same portion of road multiple times in order to lay the three different kinds of pipe, repetition that creates the impression that crews are making mistakes, not progress, he said.
“It looks like we pave, and then we dig up the pavement, and we pave again,” Theriault said.
The engineer assured that the ripped and patched roads drivers are navigating today are not the finished product. Starting in November, crews will grind down the affected roads to make an even surface, before applying a smooth layer of asphalt.
That work will take place at night, unless evening temperatures drop below 40 degrees and force crews to work in the sunshine, Theriault said. The engineer is hopeful that the bulk of the paving, to occur one lane at a time, will wrap up before winter.
Some touch-up work may get pushed to the spring if crews can’t get to everything before winter temperatures arrive, he said.
Otherwise, the city has no major upcoming projects planned for the downtown, according to Theriault.
“We’re going to give the downtown a little time to catch its breath,” he said.
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