Cost up to $4M for improvements planned next year on Route 88 in Cumberland

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CUMBERLAND — A major drainage and shoulder improvement project along Foreside Road (Route 88) could begin next April, design team engineers told the Town Council during a public hearing Monday night.

Tom Gorrill and Al Palmer of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers said the approximately $3 million to $4 million project will encompass Route 88 from the Falmouth town line to 300 feet north of Schooner Ridge Road. A second phase of the project will later address the rest of the road north to the Yarmouth town line.

Public meetings with the engineers will be held in the Council Chambers at the Cumberland Town Office from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, and Thursday, Sept. 24. Bus tours of the project area, beginning at the Falmouth town line on Route 88, will run at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, and Saturday, Oct. 24.

A second public hearing with the Town Council will be held Oct. 26, with final submittal of the plan to the town and Maine Department of Transportation scheduled for Dec. 1. Following council approval, which could occur in December, the town will issue bonds for the work.

Shane said the Town Charter allows the council to borrow for any major infrastructure projects, and that a referendum process is available if citizens feel the town should not undertake the project.

According to Gorrill-Palmer, bids for the work will be opened Feb. 17, 2010, pending review by the DOT, and construction should begin next April.

The project is intended to increase safety for pedestrians, encourage vehicles to travel at the posted speed, address major drainage issues and provide connectivity to Cumberland Center.

The historic nature of the roadway, which was laid out in the early 18th century as King’s Highway, will be promoted through mini parks along the road. Attention will be drawn to features such as the aged milestones that used to mark the distance from Boston, some of which still remain along the road.

Resident Mitchell Stein asked why the work is stopping past Schooner Ridge, noting that the storms the region has endured this summer have caused many drainage problems and washed out the shoulder past where the first phase will end.

Shane responded that cost is the issue, particularly with the steep drop-off along the road and ledge issues past the area to be addressed in the first phase.

“There are 457 homes along the Foreside (and) 410 of these homes will be serviced by phase one of this project,” he said.

“Those same reasons that would make it more costly make it more urgent, because of the issues around the drainage, the ice rink that forms on Route 88 during some of the winter in that section,” Stein responded, adding that while he supports the idea of the mini-parks, perhaps the scope of phase one should be scaled back so that money can be used to address minimum safety requirements for the entire road.

Councilor Jeff Porter said that option was reviewed but that “you’re talking almost double the amount of money.”

Councilor George Turner also pointed out that relative to the entire project’s cost, the cost of the mini-parks would be minimal.

Porter pointed out that the state, which owns the road, has placed responsibility for maintenance with the town.

“They won’t put another dime into that road until we bring it up to code, which is particularly distasteful,” Porter said. “… Unfortunately we’re not getting any participation whatsoever by the state, after they returned a substandard road to us.”

Shane later explained that because the road does not meet what the state considers a “built” road standard – it lacks proper drainage and shoulders, for example – it will not authorize money just to overlay the road.

“All they’ll do is basically maintenance responsibilities, which is just a very thin coat of asphalt over the top of it,” Shane said. “And that’s a five- to six-year Band Aid, and it doesn’t fix any of the problems.”

Shane added that “if we got (the road) to the level that it was a built road, then it would be eligible for maintenance overlays, and we’re hoping that once we get it to that level, there will be monies to do those type of preventative maintenance type of things.”

New stop sign

Earlier in the meeting the council voted to add a stop sign to the three-way T intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Valley Road. Neighborhood complaints of excessive speed on the Pleasant Valley leg from the Bruce Hill side prompted Shane initially to recommend a three-way stop.

There is currently a stop sign on Valley Road, and the new sign will stand on the side of Pleasant Valley Road traveling downhill toward the west, with Valley Road to the left.

Shane said travel volume at the intersection is low. He expressed satisfaction that two signs there would be adequate after councilors were reluctant to install a stop sign on Pleasant Valley road eastbound.

“It’s an uphill grade, and what they were afraid of is the traction needed to get through that intersection in the winter if you had to stop on an incline,” Shane said. “And there is a much wider radius onto Valley Road coming in that direction … and better visibility of the other two legs of the traffic.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.