Cumberland voters narrowly approve $4.5M bond to repair Route 88

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CUMBERLAND — By just 26 votes, residents on Tuesday approved a $4.5 million bond to improve Route 88, upholding a Town Council decision from last December.

Voter supported the bond 941-915 during Tuesday’s referendum. Thirty-two percent of Cumberland’s registered voters took to the polls, producing the fourth largest special election turnout since 1988.

Town Manager Bill Shane said a recount will require 100 signatures from those who voted.

“I’m feeling very good that the people basically supported the council’s vote,” he said Tuesday night. “… We had a very good representation of people supporting the project – and people voting against it, obviously, as well – but at least the process was set up to work.”

Shane added that Route 88, also known as Foreside Road, was in need of repair. He added that the project would “add a lot of connectivity to our community.”

Jim Higgins, co-founder of the Cumberland Taxpayers Association, led the opposition to the bond. Higgins, who began the petition process to appeal the bond the day after the council’s December vote, argued Cumberland should pay off its existing debt before incurring more.

Higgins on Wednesday morning congratulated proponents for getting their vote out.

“It was a hard-fought fight on both sides,” he said. “I’m glad the voters had the opportunity to decide the issue.”

Higgins said he felt “100 percent confident” in how the town runs the vote-tallying process, and that he would not request a recount.

Proponents of the project have maintained that the work is long overdue and necessary to address growing concerns such as drainage and pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The drainage portion of the work, planned to begin this spring, will run from the Falmouth town line to about 600 feet east of Teal Drive, while shoulder widening will stretch from the Falmouth town line to Schooner Ridge.

The existing roadway is paved over concrete. The paved portion is 24- to 26-feet wide and 3 to 5 inches in depth, and the concrete layer is 18- to 20-feet wide and between 7 inches and 9 inches deep. The proposed typical section of roadway would have two 11-foot travel lanes, each with 5-foot shoulders.

Runoff sedimentation caused by erosion carries pollutants to the ocean, but the proposed work will reduce pollution by curbing the roadway in problem areas, according to Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers. It will also eliminate erosion of roadway shoulders and adjacent property.

Engineer Tom Gorrill said during a public hearing on the referendum last week that hard economic times have actually made the current bidding environment positive from the town’s perspective, and that bids should come in lower now than they would have in recent years.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.