Cumberland paves 12-year-plan for road improvements

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CUMBERLAND — The town has mapped out a 12-year plan to improve and maintain its roads.

The plan, created by Public Services Director Chris Bolduc with his administrative assistant, Laura Neleski, was presented Monday to the Town Council.

“We haven’t had a comprehensive plan for pavement management that was realistic, was fundable and that we could get to in a short period of time,” Town Manager Bill Shane said. “Absent a plan, we could say that we needed to pave seven miles a year of road. But how do we get there? How do we fund that? What does that look like?”

He called the plan one of “pavement preservation,” noting that “we’re really in a critical place right now with our infrastructure that we can probably hold it together for 12 more years without it just totally getting to a point where it’s going to all need reconstruction.”

Recent major road improvement projects on Range Road and Route 88 each cost $4 million. Similar endeavors would instantly wipe out a pavement budget, Shane said.

“It’s not a sustainable approach to pavement management,” he said. “So what you try to do is preserve what you have, and then pick and choose … every three, four years, try to do another (reconstruction) project. Eventually, it takes a really long time, but at least your high-traveled roads in your community are being brought to a standard that’s acceptable to the community.”

Shane said Middle Road (from Tuttle Road to the Falmouth line) and Greely Road are likely the next two candidates for reconstruction.

“There are issues everywhere,” he said. “But the … largest category of roads that we’ve had a challenge with has been neighborhoods roads: the subdivision roads that were put in 30, 40, 50 years ago that never had anything done to them, and that’s not good. I’ve got better grass on some of the roads we have than on my lawn.”

The plan calls for this summer to be a ramp-up year, with about $410,000 to be spent. Next summer would see about $614,000 in improvements in the first year of the 12-year plan, and then $800,000 through 2024.

“We’ve got our handle around a good plan,” Shane said. “The issue, obviously, is money. … You have to do it in a way that it doesn’t burden the taxpayers to a point where they just say ‘we don’t want to do this.'”

Cumberland currently funds about $100,000 to $200,000 a year in road paving.

“We need to get to $800,000 a year to basically get into a sustainable road network,” Shane said.

The cycle would start again after the first 12 years.

This summer will see improvements to Greely and Middle roads, as well as to Friar Lane, which is between those two roads.

“The first year, we want to try to hit our major complaint roads without spending a ton of money,” Bolduc said.

“The Band-Aid we’re planning on putting on them this summer is … really just to kind of improve rideability and give it a riding surface that is okay,” Shane said. “It won’t do anything really structurally for the road.”

Bolduc noted that Greely and Middle roads would be addressed again in the coming years. “They’ll come back for maybe even another maintenance coat or actually some drainage, and maybe some better repairs, within five years,” he said. “Or until we can get the money … to bond them and repair them correctly.”

He said the Maine Department of Transportation has a new program where it partners with towns on local state road projects.

“If you have a $1 million project, they try to do a 50 percent match,” Bolduc said, noting that while part of Blanchard Road has been improved, the piece from the Fairgrounds to Skillins Road still needs about $1 million worth of work.

Cumberland would have to take over all maintenance of that road, but the town already handles a lot of maintenance there, he said.

“Unlike Route 88, where we paid $4 million and got no match, this would be a 50-50 match,” Shane said. “We’re going to be sharing that with the council during the budget process.”

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.