FALMOUTH — The town’s plan to redevelop the area along Route 100 in West Falmouth is shrinking because of rising costs.
Residents will have the opportunity to comment on the project, and a still-developing strategy to improve bicycle and pedestrian access, at two public forums this month.
The bicycle-pedestrian plan will be discussed in Town Council Chambers at Town Hall Monday, Dec. 7, at 6 p.m. Then on Dec. 9, a public forum on Route 100 redevelopment will be held at Town Hall, also at 6 p.m.
Director of Long Range Planning Theo Holtwijk said redeveloping Route 100 is in the preliminary engineering stage, but the overall plan has been reduced because some road reconstruction estimates have “gone through the roof.”
The project was originally expected to cost around $10 million, but that cost ballooned to $15.4 million. The increase was largely due to reconstruction needed on Leighton Road to Libby Bridge and Mountain Road, as well as from Winslow Farm to Hurricane Road.
Holtwijk said the Route 100 committee decided to go after a smaller project, which would cost closer to the $10 million figure.
He said the plan no longer includes the stretch from Winslow Farm north to Hurricane Road, which was estimated to have cost an additional $3.5 million. He said it was possible the town could explore doing that portion as a second project in the future.
“We came to the conclusion between the Department of Transportation and the town that we could not afford a $15 million project,” Holtwijk said.
The Maine Department of Transportation will fund a portion of the project, since Route 100 is a state-owned road. Holtwijk said the DOT has agreed to commit roughly $4.2 million to the project. The remaining $6.6 million would be paid for through the West Falmouth Crossing tax increment financing district, and will have to be approved by voters.
If approved, Holtwijk said, the length of the TIF would have to be extended by five years to 30 years.
“The committee thinks it has arrived at a sensible plan the town can afford,” he said, that “focuses on what is most essential to fix.”
The plan includes new sidewalks, adding pedestrian lighting, road-widening projects and creating a river access trail off Mill Road.
Holtwijk said because of the work, a “significant amount” of trees will have to be removed. He said the town will do its best to save maintained trees on property lines, but hard choices will have to be made.
Holtwijk said the plan is on schedule, and he expects the preliminary engineering phase to be completed by the end of December. It will then go to the Town Council and DOT for review.
Following Council approval, a referendum is expected next June, and final engineering work will be done shortly thereafter if the project is approved. Holtwijk said construction would begin in 2017.
Holtwijk said the bicycle and pedestrian plan is still in draft form, but the “basic message” is there.
The plan’s vision, or what is hoped to be accomplished over the next 20 years, is to promote walking and biking as a safe and convenient mode of transportation, and to enhance the walking and biking network by improving connectivity and adding connections.
Holtwijk said the plan has several goals, including improving bicycle access to downtown Portland, establishing more rural bike loops and pedestrian neighborhood loops, and improving pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between Route 1 and Route 100.
The plan has nearly 50 action items needed to achieve the goals, which Holtwijk said are based on feedback from stakeholders and an earlier public forum. He said the upcoming public forum will help the town know which items to focus on first.
Holtwijk said people at the Dec. 7 meeting will be asked to rate each action item as either short-term, which could be done in five years; mid-term, which would be done in years six through 10, or long-term, to be done in years 11 through 20.
“Some ideas are clearly long term,” Holtwijk said, such as exploring connectivity between the School Department campus and Community Park, which the Town Council recently discussed. Other items, like creating a stakeholder group of residents and interested parties, are easy and quick to accomplish.
Holtwijk said there is no cost associated with the plan yet, because it has not been finalized. Financing options are being explored.
He said the plan will eventually have to be approved by the Community Development Committee and the Town Council.
Seal of Falmouth