LEWISTON – Work replacing a Canal Street guardrail blamed for a deadly accident in March should begin this fall, according to City Administrator Jim Bennett.

The city will pay an estimated $225,000 for the work but hopes to recover part of it from the state.

“We wanted to wait to move forward until we had gotten the go-ahead from our insurers and our attorneys that this would not be a liability issue,” Bennett said. The city is being sued by the woman’s family over her death.

Police say Jeannine Morin was traveling down Ash Street on early on March 2 toward the Canal Street intersection. Her car continued across Canal Street and through a metal fence and crashed into the canal. She survived there for three hours, partially submerged in water, before she was spotted by a man plowing parking lots at the Bates Mill complex.

Morin later died at Central Maine Medical Center. An autopsy showed that she had suffered a stroke moments before the accident.

The city commissioned a study of the area, and it determined that a guardrail should have been placed along Canal Street.

According to that report, the city removed the guardrail along Canal Street in about 1992 as part of sidewalk and road improvements. At the time, the decorative fence and steep granite curbs were thought to be sufficient to keep traffic out of the canal. The work was paid for with federal and state money. That means that state officials reviewed the plans at the time.

State road design rules changed later, and found that steep granite curbs were no longer sufficient.

Bennett said the city is being sued, but said that legal matters would not end there.

“There will be cross-litigation in this,” Bennett said. “We have been assured that the city’s very little actual liability in this case.”

Plans call for building about 2,100 linear feet of guardrail along Main and Canal streets and replacing the fence.

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