MDOT ‘staying the course’ after Wiscasset referendum

Posted:  Friday, June 16, 2017 - 8:15am

Wiscasset’s latest vote on the downtown project has not changed Maine Department of Transportation’s plans, according to MDOT’s project manager.

“MaineDOT will be staying the course with our Route 1 project and look forward to working with the Select Board and its public advisory committee to design and construct this important local and regional project,” Ernie Martin writes in a June 14 email response to questions.

“The referendum question was seriously flawed with erroneous and misleading information. Through the communication and public comments that were received from the Town's project advisory committee, Town departments and various community groups, only minor adjustments have been incorporated to the preferred project,” Martin writes.

Voters rejected 400-323 a set of changes the warrant article said MDOT made to the option voters picked in June 2016. A note with the June 13 warrant article states MDOT is “not necessarily bound by a town meeting vote.”

Asked about the question’s flaws his June 14 email referred to, Martin provided his recent FAQ sheet addressing several items including ones the warrant article cites. According to the sheet, earlier layouts with a new parking lot at the Main Street Pier have changed to resurfacing and striping, which would avoid elevating the wharf and possibly impacting the environment. It also states the town’s maintenance or other costs have not risen from what was discussed before the 2016 vote. MDOT has taken on more of those costs, including the traffic signals’ maintenance, it states. And forgoing the pursuit of federal funds allowed a 2018 start instead of 2019 at the earliest, according to the sheet.

In separate phone interviews June 15, two of the residents who filed the petition that led to the warrant article said voters showed their dissatisfaction with MDOT’s plans. Bill Sutter said he will be looking to the new board of selectmen to further negotiate with MDOT on the final design. Public Advisory Committee member Seaver Leslie said people want on-street parking, and they want Haggett Garage to remain and for Midcoast Conservancy to remain in it.

Leslie said about MDOT, “If they don’t want to negotiate, they can take their project somewhere else. We’re in this for the long haul.”

Asked for her post-election comment, Moulinette owner Margot Sullivan, who has supported the planned improvements downtown, writes in a June 16 email, “As a business owner and resident, I am looking forward to the MDOT project. I believe it will help a great deal with traffic flow as well as safety. Our crumbling stairs and sidewalks along Main (Street) will be fixed and improved and will provide a place for people to linger and enjoy our village.”