LEWISTON — Plans to widen Lincoln Street south of the downtown won’t interfere with a proposed riverside bike path, City Engineer Rick Burnham said Thursday night.
“We made sure that plans we have for a bike path won’t have any impact on any new road construction we do nearby,” Burnham told a group of about 35 Lincoln Street neighbors and other Lewiston residents.
The city plans to widen Lincoln Street between the Gully Brook bridge — just south of Locust Street — and South Avenue, Burnham said. A second road improvement project is proposed this summer for the Locust-Lincoln intersection.
Plans call for widening Lincoln Street this summer to 40 feet, including 5-foot bicycle lanes in either direction. The bulk of the $2 million project would be funded with federal and state money. Roughly $200,000 would be paid by the city.
Speed limits on the road would stay the same after the work is done. They range from 25 mph in the northern part to 35 mph near South Avenue.
The city has designs that would connect Gas Light Park in the north with the Lincoln Street boat launch in the south via a bicycle path below the road base, just above the Androscoggin River.
Plans to widen Lincoln Street were made with the bike path in mind. Burnham said the city could begin working to implement those bike path plans in two years.
But Androscoggin Land Trust Executive Director Jonathan LaBonte suggested the current plan include building the riverside bike path.
“We could have a 7-mile riverfront connection that would make us the envy of every other community in the state,” LaBonte said. “I think we should build it right the first time.”
Ed Plourde of 25 Coburn St. suggested the city forgo the bike lanes on either side to leave more room for a riverside bike path. That caught the attention of Mayor Larry Gilbert and City Councilor Stephen Morgan, who both agreed.
“I’d jog on a path in that area, but I wouldn’t jog in the road there,” Gilbert said. “I think this would be a deterrent to recreating in this area, and I agree we should do it right the first time.”
But Burnham said the road needs 5-foot shoulders, whether or not they are bike paths.
“I don’t see us making the road narrower now,” he said. The city has plans to build the riverside path, eventually. It just doesn’t have the money.
“Doesn’t it make sense to build what you can now, and look for money to do the rest later?” said Public Services Director David Jones.
Plourde said it didn’t.
“If we don’t do this right the first time, you never will get more money for a bike path and it will never be built,” Plourde said. He suggested putting the project on hold while the city looks for additional federal aid.
Burnham said all comments and questions from Thursday’s meeting would be considered as the project moves along. Work could begin this July if the project is approved by the City Council and the Maine Department of Transportation.
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