BUCKFIELD – The next stretch of improvements along Route 117 from Buckfield to Turner will likely begin July 1 and continue through the end of the year, according to state transportation officials.

Addressing a group at Buckfield High School on Wednesday night, Richard Crawford, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation’s Western Regional Highway Program, gave details about the reconstruction of a 6.56-mile stretch of road from the junction of Routes 117 and 140 to Route 4.

“The scope of the project is to rehabilitate the road to meet state standards,” Crawford said, including correcting major deficiencies, updating drainage, replacing rusted culverts and improving sight distances.

The total cost will be $4.45 million. No houses will be taken, Crawford said, but some property will likely be acquired by the state to make road improvements.

At this point, it is uncertain how much land could be taken, but it will consist primarily of small strips or nips of corners, said Rick Parent, real estate manager for the DOT’s regional program.

“We try to work with you as much as we can,” Parent said at the Wednesday meeting. “We have to build our projects, but we respect your rights.” All offers will be based on current sales, he added.

Property owners can contest their settlements at the State Claims Commission, Parent said.

The road will not be widened, but the pavement will be extended to include the 3-foot gravel shoulders, which should make it safer for bicyclists, Jim Ferguson of the DOT said. The width of the road will be 28 feet.

“We’re not looking to build a superhighway in the area,” Crawford said. The speed limit will remain the same, except for one small extension of a 25 mph zone in town.

Throughout construction, at least one lane will remain open for traffic, and no detours are planned.

The project follows the reconstruction of a 9.48-mile section of Route 117 over Streaked Mountain that cost $7.4 million and took more than a year to finish.

The road has been getting busier, and the DOT predicts that the 3,400 vehicles that travel Route 117 from Buckfield to Turner on an average day will increase to 4,220 in 2018. About 11 percent of the traffic consists of heavy trucks, Crawford said.

The next stretch of construction for Route 117, from Route 4 to Cobb Road, has been deferred due to financial constraints and will probably not begin until 2008, Crawford said

Linda Lee-Desmarais, who lives in Turner, said at the meeting that the state had taken some land on her family’s property several decades ago. “I see you coming through in another 30 years and then another 30 years, and if you just keep coming, widening and widening, pretty soon we’ll have another 3-foot shoulder in our lawn.”

She said later that none of her land is being taken for the current project.

Crawford answered her: “As towns grow and traffic volume increases, and if roads aren’t updated, safety will suffer.”

Philip Desmarais said as he was leaving the meeting that, in general, he approves of the project. “If you aren’t open to change, you can’t move forward.”


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