Canal Street to get new guardrail

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LEWISTON – Building a guardrail along the city’s downtown canal will run about $225,000, councilors learned Tuesday.

A study, prompted by a deadly March accident at the intersection of Canal and Ash streets, determined that guardrails there should not have been removed.

City Administrator Jim Bennett said his staff should have a final report on the guardrail within 60 days.

“What we have now is just a preliminary report, and all the work is not done yet,” Bennett said. “We just wanted councilors and the public to see where we are on this, and make sure nothing was being swept under the rug.”

Police say Jeannine Morin was traveling down Ash Street on early on March 2 toward the Canal Street intersection. Her car continued across Canal Street and through a metal fence and crashed into the canal. She survived there for three hours, partially submerged in water, before she was spotted by a man plowing parking lots at the Bates Mill Complex.

Morin later died at Central Maine Medical Center. An autopsy showed that she had suffered a stroke moments before the accident.

According to Tuesday’s preliminary report, the city removed the guardrail along Canal Street in about 1992. It was part of sidewalk and road improvements there. At the time, the decorative fence and steep granite curbs were thought to be sufficient to keep traffic out of the canal.

Deputy Public Services Director Kevin Gagne said the work was paid for with federal and state money. That means that state officials did review the plans at the time.

“And they did sign off on it, to some extent,” Gagne said.

State road design rules were changed in 2004, and said that steep granite curbs were no longer sufficient.

“I just want to make sure that we don’t go it alone on this,” City Councilor Mark Paradis said. “If the state signed off on it, I want that noted. I want to make sure they share the burden of in this case.”

Councilor Renee Bernier said she was more concerned with getting the guardrail back in place. Preliminary estimates call for removing the fence, building about 2,100 linear feet of guard rail along Main and Canal streets and replacing the fence.

“We know we’ll either have to pass it off to next year or delay some street paving work to do this,” Bernier said.

Bennett said the final report will include recommendations for paying for the project.

“We just need to do a little more work,” Bennett said.

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