Costs could force Cumberland to stop accepting new roads

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CUMBERLAND — The expense of maintaining and improving the town’s existing roads has the Town Council looking into options to limit the number of new ones it will accept as public roads.

Town Manager Bill Shane will report to the council on Monday, Feb. 13, on a new road acceptance policy. Town Planner Carla Nixon and Operations Director Chris Bolduc, are working with Shane to develop the document.

The ordinance will “detail the expectations of the town when a road comes forward for public acceptance,” Shane said last week.

He noted that all subdivision roads must already be built to a much higher standard than a camp road or driveway.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a procedure that is clear so developers know what the expectations are when they’re building these roads. That’s already in the Subdivision Ordinance,” Shane said. “The difficulty is, how do they get from being built to that subdivision ordinance level to being accepted by the town?”

Shane said money is the issue.

It costs about $400,000 a mile to do a minimal reconstruction project, and about $150,000 a mile just to maintain a road. Road sweeping, plowing and sanding are additional factors.

“All of a sudden you get into a significant cost for maintaining these public roads,” Shane said, noting that the Town Council will debate whether it wants “to accept any roads, anymore.”

An alternative would be for the town to establish a public easement over private roads that calls for limited maintenance responsibility from the town. Those chores could include plowing, sanding and salting, and sweeping, but on the town’s terms and considered annually.

The town has struggled to keep up with maintenance of the 62 miles of roads it has, prompting creation of a long-range plan for funding repairs.

“The pavement conditions may be in fair condition on the majority of them, but the sub-base is inadequate, the drainage is poor, there’s a whole bunch of issues,” Shane said. “… We’re putting all this money into basically catching up; are we never going to be able to catch up because we continue to accept more roads?”

If not accepted by the town, roads in future subdivisions might have to be maintained by homeowners associations, Shane said.

The Feb. 13 meeting, to be held at Town Hall, will start at 7 p.m. and follow a 6 p.m. workshop.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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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.