DURHAM — Route 136 could reopen between Auburn and Durham by Christmas, state transportation officials told a group of about 60 Thursday night at the Durham Community School.
"I can't guarantee it, but it is what we are working hard toward," said Joyce Noel Taylor, director of project development for the state Department of Transportation. "I want to get your road back to you before Christmas, if we can."
Taylor said that Gov. John Baldacci signed an emergency proclamation Thursday letting the DOT speed the bidding process to repair a portion of Route 136 that collapsed into the Androscoggin River on Sept. 2.
Taylor said the DOT will offer a truncated bid process to a select group of road contractors as soon as road designs and property transfers are settled.
Taylor said the DOT has two working designs for the road. The first puts the new road about 200 feet west of the collapsed road and right through the middle of a nearby house.
The second plan put the road another 400 feet west. Taylor said engineers prefer the first plan but need to get the homeowners to agree. If they do, the state could pay to move the house farther to the west before beginning work on the road repairs.
"We're in negotiations with the homeowners now, and I need to respect that process," Taylor said. "We're trying hard to balance the needs of the people displaced by this and the rights of the homeowners."
Taylor said that once the state settles on a plan and hires a contractor — within a few weeks — the state will expect the contractor to work seven days a week to get the road back open.
It was good news for the Durham residents, who said they were eager to see the state road re-open and detoured traffic off their rural roads.
"I've been run off of my road by cars that don't know it," said Stackpole Road Resident Deb Braun. She urged the state to put up more and better signs along the Pownal Road, Stackpole Road and other Durham roads. They need to do a better job of making sure drivers know the speed limits and where they are going.
Stackpole, Pownal and Jordan School roads in Auburn were the official detour roads immediately after the road collapsed, but Regional Engineer Kyle Hall said the state moved quickly to detour traffic onto Route 196 through Lisbon and Lewiston.
"Stackpole Road is the default detour we used when the river would flood Route 136," Hall said. "We know how to set it up quickly and drivers know it, too. But we understand those roads were not designed for that kind of traffic and we've moved the detour."
Residents said moving the detour did help, but added that some drivers continue using Durham's roads until the new Route 136 opens.
They also urged Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins to increase police patrols in rural Durham, especially during the morning and afternoons when school children are on the road.
"I will, but don't get mad if I stop some of you," Desjardins said.
The DOT is scheduled to give a similar briefing to the Auburn City Council at a workshop Monday.
View Route 136/Riverside Drive in a larger map