MDOT officials attend meeting in Woolwich
BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff
After hearing a presentation Monday night on the Maine Department of Transportation’s plans to mill and pave a section of Route 1 next summer, town officials — and bicycle and pedestrian advocates — expressed their overall satisfaction with the plan.
In particular, Woolwich selectmen were reassured the MDOT had scheduled time to monitor a new striping configuration that would merge northbound traffic into a single lane near the Route 127 intersection. That way, if there are problems, the striping can be adjusted when the final layer of pavement goes down.
The MDOT plans to mill, fill and pave a 0.71-mile section of Route 1 in Woolwich from the Route 127intersection north to the bridge over Back River Creek. Woolwich selectmen sent a letter to MDOT asking them to do an analysis of whether restriping could improve bicyclist safety and calm traffic. MDOT also received a petition with more than 75 signatures asking MDOT to look at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety as well as calming traffic.
Shawn Smith, project manager with MDOT’s Highway Program, said the railroad crossing beneath the Arrowsic ramps needs to be rebuilt, which will probably involve a five-day shutdown.
There are 24,940 vehicles on an annual average daily basis coming off the Sagadahoc Bridge into Woolwich; that number drops to 18,380 north of the Route 127 and Hall Road intersection.
Smith said the MDOT’s best option right now is to extend the one-lane section of the northbound travel lane to just south of the Hall Road, “so essentially what we are gong to do is merge two into one, prior to where (Route) 127 breaks off and heads toward Dresden. So we’re going to try to use coming off the bridge, down the hill, as our merge area into one lane, have everybody into one lane through the intersection as you head north on Route 1.”
The MDOT wants to give drivers enough time and signage to understand as they come over the bridge, past the Dairy Queen and down the hill that the lanes drop from two to one, so they can safely merge.
“That allows us to have a 4-foot shoulder all the way through until the end of the project just beyond the Taste of Maine, at least,” Smith said.
The shoulders may be 5 feet in some areas.
Where MDOT has clocked vehicles leaving the Sagadahoc Bridge driving an average of 44 miles per hour, the merge is also expected to slow traffic. Whether the traffic change can accommodate the Bath Iron Works “race” of drivers at certain times of the day was also discussed, and the impact of vehicles exiting the BIW parking lot by Taste of Maine.
The other option Smith noted is to place the merge on the north side of Route 127. However, the goal is to evaluate how the first option works.
The MDOT also plans to enhance the island where Route 127 comes out onto Route 1, which makes traffic there stay in its lane and provide more protection as vehicles merge onto Route 1. There would be a new crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists which would put bicyclists back onto the paved shoulder on the inside of the merge.
The anticipated timeline currently is to advertise for bids in late February or early March. The railroad crossing work on the ramps is hoped to be done by Memorial Day. The rest of the work is weather dependent and will be done at night, from 6 or 7 p.m. to around 6 a.m. Everything to the shim course should be done by mid-June — and would be striped with the new merge configuration. The rest of June, until August, MDOT would monitor the striping change. The final layer of pavement is expected after Labor Day.
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said signs will be the educational component of the project, noting the diagram-style signs showing lanes work well, and urged MDOT use more than a small yellow merge sign to alert drivers. Merry said he hopes the department will get feedback on its signage.
“I am excited that we are going to do this on a trial period basis,” said Woolwich Selectman Jason Shaw said, adding it gives him some reassurance.
He expressed a major concern about the extra width on the bridge beyond the Taste of Maine, the last point where drivers try to get ahead of other vehicles. That is something Smith said his team will look at.
Abby King from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine commended the MDOT for using this project as an opportunity to implement its Complete Streets policy; and the community for coming together and participating in the transportation planning process.
Smith said he would expect to attend a Woolwich Board of Selectmen meeting with updates at some point after crews start the work.