February 13

Augusta, state smooth over Mount Vernon Avenue concerns

Some work on the broken, battered north entrance to the capital city is to be completed this summer, with the rest set for 2015.

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Construction work to resurface the broken and battered pavement of Mount Vernon Avenue may begin this summer, after city officials complained about a state plan to start construction in 2015.

click image to enlarge

ROUGH ROAD: Cars drive past cracked pavement and filled potholes on Mount Vernon Avenue on Tuesday in Augusta.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

ROUGH ROAD: Cars drive past cracked pavement and filled potholes on Mount Vernon Avenue on Tuesday in Augusta.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

The decision to begin the work sooner came after state transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt met with City Manager William Bridgeo Wednesday afternoon and Bernhardt offered “a middle ground solution.”

City officials had expressed frustration that the state Department of Transportation project to resurface the road, which they thought would start this summer, appeared to have been delayed in the department’s work schedule until 2015.

State legislators, on the city’s behalf, had asked Bernhardt to attend a Thursday night City Council meeting, but Bernhardt instead met with Bridgeo for about an hour Wednesday.

Bridgeo said Bernhardt’s plan is to split the state project into two contracts.

The road is the major entrance into the city from the north, where it starts as Civic Center Drive and then becomes State Street after it crosses Bond Brook. The approximately $2 million project would resurface the entire 1.54 miles of the road, roughly from the University of Maine Augusta entrance at the north to Bond Brook at the south.

Bridgeo said state would seek bidders this summer to grind down the surface of the road and put down a new layer of pavement in the project area, which would serve as the permanent base layer of pavement.

Then, a second contract would be awarded by the state, likely for the 2015 construction season, to finish the project by completing the rest of the work, including utilities, curbing, sidewalks and drainage and a final layer of pavement.

Bernhardt, in a letter to Bridgeo sent Thursday, said, “As for Mt. Vernon Avenue per our discussion, I believe there is a way to make sure our customers will not have to go another spring after this one under the existing conditions. The idea of splitting the project into two contracts is being looked at which will allow the existing surface to be milled and a layer of new pavement placed this construction season.”

Bridgeo said he, Mayor William Stokes, and city councilors appreciate the compromise.

“The city certainly appreciates the commissioner’s willingness to work with us on resolving our concerns about Mount Vernon Avenue,” Bridgeo said Thursday. “We’ll work with the state as best we can. We’ve got a common purpose here, to get Mount Vernon Avenue improved ASAP. The biggest concern, of course the awful riding condition, will be the first part to be addressed, so that’s a relief.”

Ernie Martin, project manager for the transportation department, said earlier this week hurdles have come up including the need to map public utilities in the project area and securing easements with numerous property owners, which need to be cleared before working with the city and Greater Augusta Utility District on the final project design.

Bridgeo said he and others at a public hearing about the project last September were told it would be put out to bid in May this year, with construction to take place through the remainder of 2014.

More recently, Bridgeo said the city staff, including Public Works Director Lesley Jones, was told by state transportation officials the project wouldn’t be put out to bid until later in 2014, with construction unlikely to commence until December and continuing into the summer of 2015.

Now, however, the work appears to be on track to start this summer under the plan to split the project into two parts.

Bernhardt said the transportation team assigned to the project would have frequent meetings with city and Greater Augusta Utility District staff over the next several months “to make sure the project stays on track while looking for ways to compress the existing schedule.”

Bridgeo said the base layer of pavement that would be put down as part of the 2014 work on the project would be covered by a final coat of pavement in 2015, so if trenches have to be dug in the base coat to install utilities underground, it would all be covered by the final coat of pavement.

Bridgeo said even a base coat of pavement would be a major and noticeable improvement over the rough, broken-up surface that exists on the road now.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647 kedwards@centralmaine.com
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