LEWISTON — The Maine Turnpike Authority will close this week on the purchase of the former Chalet Motel on Lisbon Street with plans to knock at least half of it down to create 75 spots for a new park-and-ride lot, Executive Director Peter Mills said.
It’s part of a $24 million project that overhauls Exit 80.
The MTA originally considered the former McDonald’s on Lisbon Street for the new park and ride. Bob Stone, the newest MTA member, challenged Mills to take a left turn from the lot.
“‘He said, 'You go in there and try to come back out at commuter hour,’” Mills said. “So I did. I said, ‘You’re right.’”
Stone, a Lewiston native, said he was familiar with the stretch.
“People are flying both ways,” he said. “I’m all about safety; that’s why I lobbied for that.”
Mills said the MTA had the former hotel under contract for $400,000. The coming work at Exit 80 is a four-part, multi-year project, he said, with the first designs nearly complete.
“Phase 1 will build two ramps by the turnpike, one new exit and one new entrance adjacent to Gendron property,” he said. “That work could be commenced this construction season and be built in the space of 10 or 12 months.”
It likely means the loss of one or both of the park-and-ride lots on Alfred Plourde Parkway. The two combined have 75 to 80 spaces, used now by drivers hopping on the turnpike and workers taking Route 196 to Bath Iron Works.
Mills said the MTA is studying whether to knock down half of the hotel and find a buyer for the 42-room half-hotel left behind or knock it all down to create 150 parking spaces.
“I don’t think the MTA should be in the hotel business or property management business,” Stone said. “I say knock it down and have plenty of room for growth. As energy costs continue to rise, there will be a lot more car-pooling.”