Lack of funds delays work on Route 26

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OXFORD – Blueprints for the proposed Route 26 reconstruction project from Skeetfield Road to the intersection of Route 121 may lie on a table in the selectmen’s room collecting dust for a few more years.

State officials say funding for the proposed reconstruction project is simply not there.

Jim Ferguson, of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, said the project is not in the 2008-09 work plan and most likely the Legislature won’t get to vote on the funding until the 2010-11 legislative session.

“It’s frustrating. It’s nothing that money couldn’t fix,” said Ferguson of the road’s poor condition.

The plan, which was outlined to local officials last year, calls for the full reconstruction of a two-mile section of the state road from Skeetfield Road, where the current Route 26 reconstruction job ends, to the Route 121 intersection.

The state is completing a $1 million resurfacing of a 2.7 mile section of Route 26 from Fore Road to Skeetfield Road. The work is scheduled to be done by the end of July.

State officials say the road just needs too much work.

Kyle Hall of the Department of Transportation said that unlike the current Route 26 project, which involves an overlay and adding shoulders and drainage, the proposed project would involve a complete road reconstruction because of the deterioration of concrete under the road particularly by Oxford Plains Speedway.

Part of the proposed plan provides a widening of the road to three lanes from just below the Route 121 intersection near Record Lumber to the Skeetfield Road intersection.

Ferguson said money is well spent when a road can be preserved by an overlay or patching, but when a road has to be reconstructed, during which the old gravel and concrete has to be completely dug up, the road simply can’t get too much worse so it becomes less of a priority if funding is an issue.

“It won’t hurt it to keep it that way. We’ll evaluate it year to year,” he said.

However, he stressed, if the road’s condition becomes a hazard, the state can always patch or even overlay it while it waits for funding for the reconstruction job to come through.

“We’ll do patching if we need to,” he said.

Last year the state Department of Transportation said it had to defer $130 million in road construction projects because of increased construction costs and a new federal transportation system that impacted cash flow.

“It’s being spent quicker than we come up with the money. We’re doing our best to prioritize,” said Ferguson of the transportation bond money that is being used to fund road projects across the state.

“It’s just a matter of priorities through the Bureau of Planning,” Ferguson said.

“Unfortunately, there’s not enough money to go around.”

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