Thomaston town officials will not be moving forward with a project that would create a new road for traffic to bypass the stretch of Route 1 that runs through downtown until voters weigh in on the matter this summer.
For years the town has kicked around the possibility of constructing a new road to create an alternate route around downtown, for both emergency vehicles and general traffic to utilize when Route 1 becomes congested. This year the town finally conducted a feasibility study on the idea. However, when the results of that study were presented this fall, residents balked at the proposal, saying it would be a tax burden and simply another road for drivers to speed on.
Given the pushback, town officials have decided to bring a question about the project before voters at the annual town meeting in June.
It’s unclear exactly what residents will be asked regarding the project at this time, though the select board has indicated that they would like to gather more information before sending a question to voters. The project is largely on hold until residents weigh in and in the interim the selectboard will be determining what question to bring to voters in June, according to Town Manager Kara George.
“Before we go too far anywhere we have to find out if the town wants us to continue and I think we need to launch a referendum at the next town meeting,” Thomaston Select Board Chair Diane Geise said at a meeting last month. “I don’t think we should go forward, I don’t think we should spend anymore money and I don’t think we should do anything else until we get an idea of whether the town is supporting what we’re trying to do.”
Following a recommendation in the town’s newly adopted comprehensive plan, this summer the Thomaston Select Board approved spending $20,000 on the road study, which was conducted by Dirigo Engineering.
At a meeting in October, Dirigo presented a proposed three-mile route for the new road, which would run from east to west around downtown. The proposed road is estimated to cost about $11.5 million, according to materials provided by Dirigo at the October presentation.
The proposed route would begin west of downtown at the intersection of Oyster River Road and Route 1, then continue along Studley Road and then cut across town, intersecting with Beechwood Street before connecting to Old County Road to the east. It would include three roundabouts where the new route intersects with existing roads.
Town officials have stressed that the study was preliminary and that any final proposal would likely require years of studies, changes and public meetings ― ultimately ending with a town-wide vote.
But there’s upsides, they say. In addition to providing an alternative route around downtown in emergencies, as well as alleviating some traffic along Route 1, town officials have said the road ― if built ― could also allow for increased residential development.