Lack of funds defers road projects

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DIXFIELD – Forget for now the planned relocation of Route 2 in Dixfield, and the blasting of a mountain of ledge between Gilead and Bethel to straighten out the same highway.

Those Maine Department of Transportation projects are not going to happen this year. There’s no money to pay for the work.

Likewise, reconstruction contract advertising for an estimated $7 million project involving 3.8 miles on Route 4 in Madrid, and 3.3 miles of an estimated $6 million project on Route 9 in Lisbon from downtown to the turnpike, have been deferred to this summer, but only if funding is available, region engineer Mark Hume said recently.

If money can’t be found, both projects go on the back burner.

“It’s all up in the air right now. It’s up to the Legislature,” Hume said.

Other large road reconstruction projects in Oxford and Norway are in the same boat. But, Hume said, those have been postponed until the department’s next biennial funding program.

“In a perfect world, we’d get our funding back, and do them, but the state took away our construction funding,” he added.

A new scenic vista overlook at Height of Land in Township D and road reconstruction on Route 17 has been deferred due to funding, as well as a $1.7 million project in Turner involving 2.4 miles of Route 117 on the eastern side of Route 4.

Other than overlay work, road and traffic signal improvements in Auburn and Lewiston have been deferred to next year, including replacement of the Old Danville Road bridge over Royal River in Auburn, DOT representative Ralph Webster said Wednesday afternoon in Augusta.

But, about 6 miles of Route 117 to the west of Route 4 between Turner and Buckfield is expected to go out to bid in mid-summer.

“We’ll get started, hopefully, this fall, and have the whole season next year to finish it,” Hume said.

Included in the $5 million project is road reconstruction and rehabilitation, and replacement of the culvert bridge over Bog Brook with a longer-lasting box culvert.

Regarding the Dixfield project, the department plans to relocate Route 2 around the back side of Twin Rivers Lumber Yard.

The highway now winds down a hill, around the front of the business and around another curve, off which is Canton Point Road.

Reconstruction work is expected to start next year on a 2-mile stretch from just south of Holman Road to the top of the hill. The project, estimated at about $5 million, is scheduled to be advertised this coming winter, Hume said.

The Route 2 section between Gilead and Bethel is a mile-long stretch that has been the scene of several accidents involving tractor-trailers having problems negotiating tight corners and uneven road surfaces.

Both Bethel and Gilead ends were done over the past two years, leaving the hardest part for last.

This year, Hume said, the department is to pick up where it left off there last year on Route 2 at Pleasant River.

About 2 miles of the highway west of there is to be reconstructed at a cost of about $7 million, which includes some ledge blasting, engineering and right-of-way costs. The work is expected to begin later this fall.

Some projects are already under way. One includes 3.76 miles of highway improvements to Route 4 in Phillips. It is expected to be completed in early November. Another involves the Saco River bridge in Fryeburg, the deck of which was installed on March 28, Hume said.

“We’ll have traffic on it, hopefully, by the end of May,” he added. Work on the $2.04 million project, which began last year, is expected to be completed in July.

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