AUGUSTA (AP) – Augusta’s city manager says residents have complained about increased truck traffic to and from Pike Industries’ large pit and asphalt plant, but the state is brushing aside local ordinances to advance the Interstate 295 reconstruction.

“The state has exercised their right to override local ordinance as to the hours of operation,” City Manager William Bridgeo said.

“It’s onerous. It’s burdensome. But we have very limited opportunity to influence it,” Bridgeo said. “We’ve done what we can.”

Complaints have targeted the hours the trucks have been coming – beyond the hours allowed in a city ordinance that bans truck traffic in the area between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. – but extended hours of operation appear likely to continue, starting as early as 4:30 a.m., according to state Transportation Commissioner David Cole.

Operating the pit “at potentially all hours” is an option, too, Cole said.

The project calls for 180,000 tons of pavement to be laid in about 15 weeks.

Cole, in a letter to the city, said he understood there had been consideration of issuing traffic citations to contractors working on the project for violating the time limits in the city’s ordinance.

“Although we empathize with the residents in the area and wish that more explicit advance notice had been provided, we are hopeful this letter will explain why the projects need to be done as planned and why it would not be appropriate to cite our contractors,” Cole wrote.

“This project compressed two or three years worth of work with partial lane closures into a portion of a single season with a complete southbound closure,” Cole’s letter said.

“This was designed to forward the public interest of having this massive and important interstate project done safer, quicker, cheaper and better. As a state project, the public interest must prevail, though everyone understands and is trying to minimize the impacts to the Summerhaven area residents.”

“We wish there were other options, but they simply do not exist at this time,” Cole said. “We need the mix from this plant, and need to haul for longer hours than what the city ordinance allows to get this state work done in the best interest of the public.”

Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the project appears to be on schedule to finish by the end of August.

Traffic is being diverted for 10 weeks from Interstate 295’s southbound lanes onto U.S. Route 201 or the Maine Turnpike to keep vehicles off the interstate from Gardiner to Topsham, where the work is being done.

Information from: Kennebec Journal,

AP-ES-07-09-08 0844EDT

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