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FALMOUTH — Frustrated with the lack of progress on a planned $10.5 million infrastructure improvement project on Route 100 in West Falmouth, residents have been demanding answers.
And during a public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Town Hall, they’ll get some, according to Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of long-range planning and economic development.
It was two years ago that voters first approved a bond designed to pay for needed upgrades on Route 100. The original plan was for the project to go out to bid in the summer of 2017 and for work to be quite far along by now.
For a number of reasons that hasn’t happened, leading to concern among some in town about why the project is not already underway. The improvements are particularly important to those who use Route 100 every day.
In announcing next week’s public meeting, Holtwijk said the goal is to update residents and to answer any questions they may have about the project and the process moving forward. In addition to town staff, the project engineer and representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation will also be on hand.
Route 100 is a state-owned road and so MDOT is contributing $4 million to the project, which includes rebuilding the roadway from Leighton Road to Libby Bridge and adding sidewalks, bicycle lanes and street lighting, along with dedicated turning lanes at key intersections.
Because Route 100 gets such high usage and is also seen as an area where the town would like to see future economic development, Falmouth is paying the majority of funding for the road project.
Sections of Route 100 were already in bad shape two years ago and they’ve only continued to deteriorate, which is why many residents are so disheartened that the project hasn’t even started yet.
In addition, some are concerned about increased costs for the road improvements, especially since the library expansion project has come in $2.2 million over what was originally projected.
At the Aug. 13 Town Council meeting, Holtwijk attempted to explain the delay in the Route 100 project, while also taking responsibility for not keeping residents informed about why the project hasn’t begun.
As of now, Holtwijk told councilors, the plan is for the project to go out to bid in late October.
He said the primary reason for the delay has been acquiring the necessary rights of way, which include both a small number of land takings and temporary construction easements.
Holtwijk said there are more than 90 properties in the construction zone that require an appraisal and added that obtaining the rights of way is “a formal and lengthy process that’s proven to be extremely complex.”
Initially, he said, the town had hoped that it could piggyback on some of the right of way work being done by the state, but that turned out not to be possible. Holtwijk also said the state would not allow the town to conduct the right of way process while also finalizing the engineering documents.
He also said it was hard to find the necessary professionals needed to conduct the land surveys and appraisals. Holtwijk said there are only a certain number of those professionals in Maine and they’ve experienced a very busy season.
To help Route 100 get through another winter before construction starts, Holtwijk also suggested the Town Council consider spending about $70,000 to put a thin coat of new pavement between Leighton Road and Marston Street.
Town Manager Nathan Poore said the new pavement could be critical to tying the road over until the improvement project commences, adding that the town’s fully committed to seeing the Route 100 project through to completion.
Another reason for the delay, according to Holtwijk, is that the town had to rethink the sewer design because it could not build a new pumping station as originally planned. And, there was also some lag as the town tried to work with the developer of a proposed contract zone in West Falmouth.
Proposed intersection improvements that are part of a $10.5 million infrastructure project on Route 100.
Upgrades to Route 100 include new sidewalks, bicycle lanes and street lighting.