On July 12, Edgecomb Select Board Chairman Dawn Murray described a recent experience driving along U.S. Route 1. She described traffic as an accident waiting to happen.
Murray was inching along U.S. Route 1 returning home from Damariscotta. She expected congested traffic and a longer wait than usual due to summer construction. But her wait far exceeded the five minutes Maine Department of Transportation estimated for delays before the project began. Murray recounted how she attempted to allow a truck hauling a large boat to merge onto U.S. Route 1.
“I knew he would have problems so I let him in. Before he had a chance, four or five cars flew by in a breakdown lane. It’s only a matter of time before there is a major accident because people are very frustrated,” she said.
Even if Murray hadn’t witnessed the congested traffic, she and fellow board members Mike Smith and Ted Hugger know about problems residents encounter along the U.S. Route 1 and Route 27 project. They all reported receiving numerous emails and phone call complaints. So far, MDOT had not followed through on promises made prior to the construction or any new complaints regarding the current situation, selectmen said.
So the select board invited State Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, to help them seek more assistance from the state. Hugger told Stover, the project’s scope changed without MDOT officials seeking the town’s input. He said he is also frustrated with MDOT not following through on promises.
“I don’t believe a word they say,” Hugger said. “We are consistently getting bad and inaccurate information since April. The project was supposed to start in the spring. We heard it was delayed due to an environmental problem involving a stream. Later, we find out it wasn’t a stream, but a well. So the project was delayed for nothing.”
Stover told selectmen she understood their concerns and had already contacted MDOT officials. Project Manager Ernie Martin couldn’t attend the board meeting because he had a previous commitment in Bangor. Stover assured selectmen Martin would contact them on July 13 regarding their concerns. Stover is also working with MDOT to improve Route 27’s condition. MDOT has placed Route 27 on a two-year maintenance wait list. But Stover agrees with town officials, Route 27 won’t last two years. “The road is crumbling and I’m concerned about more single-vehicle accidents,” she said.
Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett reported no increase in U.S. Route 1 or Route 27 traffic accidents. But he told selectmen he was willing to provide additional temporary signs to detour traffic away from side roads. “We can’t enforce traffic only signs without a town ordinance so the sign may deter motorists from using side roads,” he said.
On July 13, Martin contacted Murray about the board’s concerns and Martin committed to posting a temporary “No thru traffic. Local traffic only” sign on Eddy Road. He also reported the contractor, Sargent Corp. of Stillwater, was asked to monitor delays more carefully and MDOT issued a press release warning about traffic delays at the intersection. A crew would also install a culvert on McKay Road to address a sink hole.
On July 14, Martin reported overall the project was on target to reach its completion dates of early September for the Route 1 and Route 27 construction project and early October for Eddy Road.
“The project is on track and we haven’t received any complaints from the public. We are back to 2019 traffic levels,” Martin said. ““I think everybody on all fronts is trying to help the situation and there is no silver bullet solution. It's just a typical summer road construction project in Maine."
In other action, selectmen met with auditor Fred Brewer of the Bath firm William H. Brewer & Co. an hour prior to the regularly scheduled meeting. Brewer reported Edgecomb finished the fiscal year with an $808,586.98 positive balance. Town officials reported the figure is approximately $120,000 more than last year’s and two-thirds of the mark proposed by Maine Municipal Association for small towns like Edgecomb.
Selectmen also want to begin talks with Lincoln County Ambulance for extending their five-year contract. Edgecomb pays $17,000 annually and with two years remaining on their current pact, Smith advised the board to begin a conversation about a possible extension. Selectmen also approved an easement for a Central Maine Power pole permit. Last month, Irving and Melissa Locke requested an easement to provide power gain to their McKay Road property. The CMP pole is on land Edgecomb owns. Selectmen tabled the request last month to research the adjacent property’s ownership.
Selectmen meet next at 6 p.m. Monday, July 26 in the town hall.