Historic Wiscasset, Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The Route 1 improvement project in Wiscasset is changing the look and feel of the town, but business owners are split over the project eliminating on-street parking.

The most dramatic part of the Route 1 improvement project is to expand the sidewalk nearly 20 feet into the street, which will eliminate on-street parking.

“All of this is now being threatened — the economic viability, the activity, the historic preservation qualities of this town are all being under compromise due to this ill-conceived MDOT project,” business owner James Kochan said.

The aim of the Route 1 improvement project is to improve pedestrian safety, and to prevent Wiscasset from becoming a traffic bottleneck, like it has in the summer, but some businesses are moving off Main Street because there will soon be no on-street parking.

Kochan is moving his art gallery a block and a half away because he won’t be able to count on walk-in customers.

“What I’m going to lose is all the additional success I’ve found at this location, all that walk-in traffic will probably be lost to me,” Kochan said.

But some are embracing the change.

“Both the safety aspect, which many people say they don’t park in front of our shops because it’s too difficult to back out, not safe … walkers have to go up the street [to get around] parked cars,” business owner Brad Sevaldson said.

Sevaldson also said the project will enhance the beauty of the town.

“It only makes it more beautiful in that you’ll see store fronts instead of bumpers of cars,” Sevaldson said.

Other businesses say they’re going to wait and see how the changes impact foot traffic and parking.

State transportation officials say the problems with parking will be alleviated with lots placed on opposite sides of Water Street. The project will pause in a few weeks before resuming in the spring. Traffic lights bookending the town are also planned as part of the project.