Yarmouth prepares for trio of road improvement projects

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YARMOUTH — Plans to improve safety for walkers, bikers and motorists at three locations continue to take shape.

Bids on a project to install a new traffic light and enhance turn lanes off Exit 17 of Interstate 295 may be ready for review near the end of May, according to local and state officials.

Voters in June will determine if the town should borrow $2 million to improve Hillside Street. The Hillside bond is one of two, $2 million roadwork bonds slated for voter approval at the June 13 town election.

And the Main Street Overpass Bridge project is scheduled to start in July, shortly after the annual Clam Festival.  

Exit 17

A traffic light placed where Route 1 intersects with I-295 at Exit 17 will keep traffic flowing evenly and safely, according to officials. 

To get onto I-295 from Route 1 northbound, a driver must exit on the left, after which an uphill path brings the driver to the interstate.

Depending on I-295 northbound traffic, drivers can find themselves waiting in line as cars line up behind them. 

“It’s a busy intersection, it had some congestion problems,” Maine Department of Transportation Project Manager Brian Keeler said ahead of a March public hearing on the project.

Traffic light sensors help regulate flow, too, said Yarmouth Town Engineer Steven Johnson. As cars queue up to enter the highway, traffic light sensors determine when a light should change to keep traffic safe.  

Also, the off-ramp leading from Route 1 to I-295 will be widened for a second turn lane. The existing turn lane will be lengthened, Keeler said Monday. 

Town, state and federal money is paying for the $394,500 project. The federal share is more than $256,000 and the state’s share is about $39,000. Yarmouth will pay almost $99,000, Johnson and Keeler said. The town’s share is higher than the state’s due to changes made to the project, Johnson said.

Contractors prequalified by the state DOT can submit bids, along with other contractors that are qualified, Keeler said. The low bidder is not necessarily chosen to complete the project; necessary skills and experience also matter, Keeler explained. 

A time-line for the Exit 17 project may have work beginning in June and continuing throughout the fall. Depending on the type of traffic signals installed, drivers may experience delays.

If the final project design recommends mast-arm signal poles, the manufacturer needs time to make and deliver the structures. A mast arm traffic light hangs off the vertical signal pole, as though it’s an outstretched arm. Another traffic light option would be a strain pole, which is an upright post.

In the meantime, a temporary set of signals may be set up to ease traffic flow as the summer tourism season approaches, Keezer said.

“There is some thought that a temporary signal may be necessary because of the long lead time to order some of the necessary permanent equipment,” Town Manager Nat Tupper said in an email. If it is necessary, “the temporary signal will be requested as a bid alternative item and a decision made on whether or not to select the option based on the whole picture of timing and cost of work.”

Hillside Street

Improvements to Hillside Street will benefit walkers and cyclists, not just motorists, as plans call for a contiguous sidewalk.

Concerns arose during an April 6 Town Council meeting that some drivers may find a smooth, new road irresistible and drive faster.

Steps will be taken to get people to slow down and pay attention, residents were assured. Psychological signals to drive slowly and slower will be in place — from white lines on the sides of the road to striping down the road’s center to tree plantings, town officials said.

Hillside Street is not far from McCartney Street, home to the Frank H. Harrison Middle and Yarmouth Elementary schools, and children and adults frequently walk and bike in that area.

“It’s a big concern,” School Board member Laura Coroi said. “We need to really, really slow down.”

If voters pass the bond requests, the town would not issue the bonds or commission the work until 2018.

“But we need the funding authorization in order to get (the) final design completed and bid requests out next winter for spring/summer 2018 work,” Tupper said.

Main Street bridge

After thorough discussion several years ago, replacing and improving the bridge over Main Street is set to begin in late July, after the 52nd annual Clam Festival, set for July 21-23.

“Bids were scheduled to be submitted to MDOT last week,” Tupper said Monday, adding Johnson, the town engineer, will check on the bid results. 

The new design calls for a higher bridge clearance, a secured walking lane and a space on Main Street for outdoor events. The project is expected to cost $4.9 million. October 2018 is being eyed for completion.

The town’s financial share will be about $257,000. Maine DOT is covering most of the cost. In February 2016, the town received a $350,000 grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to meet the needs of walkers and cyclists. 

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: connell_ld.

Hillside Street in Yarmouth is noted for its dips and buckles, which may be fixed if voters approve a road repair bond in June.