MDOT traffic proposals concern Woolwich officials

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 8:15am

Proposed improvements at the intersection of Nequasset Road and Route 1 in Woolwich include adding turning lanes and replacing a blinking caution light with a traffic signal. Maine Department of Transportation officials disclosed plans for $900,000 in road improvements to the select board Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 19.

The work includes closing the southern end of George Wright Road where it intersects with Route 1, raising Route 1 approximately five feet and adding an 85-foot span to facilitate tidal flow. The state also plans to replace the Station 46 bridge near Taste of Maine Restaurant. The projects are still in the design phase and slated to begin in 2022.

Reached for comment Thursday morning, Jan. 21, Chairman David King Sr. told Wiscasset Newspaper the select board met remotely with MDOT officials for close to two hours. “They told us they preferred making the changes they’re proposing for Nequasset Road rather than allowing a curb-cut for a new connector road that we are proposing,” he said.

In mid-November, voters agreed to spend $69,000 to buy roughly two acres of wooded property from Dennis and Sylvia Fuller. The select board wanted the option of building an access road to Route 1 should the state go ahead with plans to close the lower end of George Wright Road.

“Closing off the road means the town won’t have to replace the bridge there which saves the town a considerable amount of money,” said King. He said highway officials did not see the need for building the connector road. “Instead they’re proposing making changes on Nequasset Road.”

The portion of Nequasset Road that is most affected runs past the town office, fire station, a building housing the town’s historical society and Nequasset Meetinghouse.

“When we have meetings at the municipal building, or across the street at the meetinghouse, which is pretty frequent, people park on both sides of the road. Increase the traffic here and we’ll have a real mess,” added King.

“It’s a case of them trying to be the big bullies again,” Selectman Dale Chadbourne told the newspaper. “They don’t want to spend the money to replace the bridge at the lower end of George Wright Road. Closing it off from Route 1 means more traffic being diverted to Nequasset Road. For years we’ve asked for a traffic light at the Nequasset Road intersection to get our emergency vehicles safely onto, or across, Route 1. Up until now they always said no.”

Selectman Jason Shaw called it a long meeting but was encouraged MDOT planners agreed to take another look before moving forward.

“They promised to come to Woolwich and meet directly with us and walk the areas. One concern I have is with the grade of Nequasset Road. From the town office it runs downhill past the cemetery. It’s a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill where it intersects with George Wright Road. Large trucks or vehicles towing a boat have a difficult time making that turn,” he said.

If the state closes the lower end of George Wright Road, Road Commissioner Jack Shaw thinks building the connector road is the best traffic solution. He said constructing turning lanes on Nequasset Road would be an improvement but added he was against adding a traffic light.

“It’s different than the traffic lights they’ve put in Wiscasset because the traffic there is moving much slower. The speed limit here is 55 miles per hour on Route 1. Adding a traffic light is a bad idea if you don’t drop the speed limit.”

No date has been set for the meeting with MDOT officials.