DURHAM — Giant mechanical jaws uprooted trees Wednesday along Route 136 near Durham Center where construction workers have begun clearing the way for a new, mile-long roadbed farther from the Androscoggin River.

Work started about two weeks ago with the demolition of two homes. A third home bought by the state is serving as field headquarters for on-site supervisors.

The work now underway marks the second phase of the overall project, which began several years ago.

In the first phase, completed early last year, a new section of road was created from Snow Road northward to a bend in the Androscoggin River. The new roadway runs parallel to the old roadbed, which was being undermined by the river. After a storm in 2012, the Maine Department of Transportation installed a temporary traffic light, converting the two-lane road to a single lane until construction of a new road began.

Construction crews stabilized the riverbank and resurfaced the new road.

The total cost of the northern section of the Route 136 project was estimated at $4.7 million, including right-of-way purchases, survey and construction.

The southern portion of the project will cost a total of $4.45 million, including design, right-of-way purchases, survey and construction. Construction costs alone were bid at $3.4 million.

During the second phase, which started two weeks ago, the roadway will be rebuilt farther from the river than the existing road for about a mile from Snow Road to Gerrish Brook. A roughly quarter-mile section between Gerrish Brook and Davis Road will remain in place, but will be resurfaced, said Denis Lovely, project manager for Region 1 at MDOT.

The current phase of construction is expected to last through the end of the year, Lovely said. The contractor has until the summer of 2015 to complete the project but expects to finish sooner, he said.

He said federal money is expected to pay for 80 percent of the overall project cost.

Commuters traveling that section of Route 136 will experience start-and-stop traffic and, at times, one-way traffic, Lovely said.

Asphalt on the existing roadway will be stripped off and utility poles will be relocated farther from the river. That will be followed by the construction of a new roadbed and installation of drainage pipes to the west.

The riverbank will be stabilized and new guardrails installed.

The state received more than $3.5 million from the Emergency Relief program within the Federal Highway Administration as reimbursement for the first phase of the project because a portion of that stretch of Route 136 was beginning to give way due to erosion of sandy soils caused by flooding.

Farther north, a portion of Route 136 and a home were moved after a failed effort to stabilize the riverbank with corrugated sheets of metal in 2010. A crane that was pounding the sheets into the roadside riverbank fell into the river when the roadway collapsed. The crane operator suffered minor injuries.

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