SCARBOROUGH – Construction crews this month are putting the finishing touches on a $2.35 million town-funded improvement project at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Haigis Parkway.
Along with new turning lanes, sidewalks, lights and traffic islands, the revamped intersection features landscaping and stone columns. Town officials wanted to give the intersection a distinguished look, as it serves as the gateway to Scarborough for vehicles coming off the Maine Turnpike and driving south on Haigis Parkway.
“By the end of next week, the road is going to be fully open and functional,” said Town Manager Tom Hall.
The intersection is the first of two projects along Route 1 in Scarborough that are intended to ease congestion, improve safety and make the heavily traveled road more convenient for drivers.
The second project is a new intersection planned for the Dunstan Corner area, about a mile and a half south on Route 1.
Currently, the intersection of Route 1 with Pine Point and Broadturn roads is too close to the intersection of Route 1 and Payne Road. Bottlenecks and long waits are common at Dunstan Corner, especially during the summer tourism season. The $3.35 million plan calls for construction of a new intersection farther north on Route 1, and a new access road linking to Payne Road.
“The solution is to stretch out the distance between those intersections,” Hall said.
The Maine Department of Transportation and PACTS, a transportation council made up of 16 municipalities in greater Portland, will pay $2.5 million of the Dunstan Corner project. The town expects to pay about $830,000. Engineers are still working on a final plan for the improvements; a public hearing will be held later this year or early next year.
Hall said he hopes the project will be done in late 2013 or early 2014.
“It’s a pretty massive project,” he said, noting that timing is important because the town would be responsible for any cost overruns. “We are pushing like crazy to stay on schedule. We want to get this out to bid early spring or late spring next year.”
One major goal of the projects is to encourage drivers to use Route 1 and Haigis Parkway to get to and from the Maine Mall area and South Portland, instead of using the western portion of Payne Road as a cut-through.
“All of this came out of a locally driven process. A lot of folks along Payne Road were increasingly frustrated with the speed and traffic there,” Hall said. “This should satisfy the goal of alleviating those problems. It is really an old country road in many respects.”
At Len Libby Chocolate and Candy on Route 1, Peter Daniels and the rest of the management team were concerned that the intersection project this summer, combined with a MDOT paving project on Route 1, would put a major dent in their business. But Daniels said the work has gone smoothly.
“Everything has been positive,” said Daniels, operations manager at the candy shop that has been in Scarborough for more than 50 years. “Believe it or not, with all this stuff going on, business has been good.”
Daniels is hopeful that the changes will redirect cut-through traffic from Payne Road back onto Route 1, where drivers will pass by Len Libby and other businesses.
Other business owners near the intersection, at least so far, have not been impressed.
“I think the project looks fantastic, but it’s not needed, and it’s not business friendly,” said Michael Anton, owner of Admiral Fire and Safety, at 9 Haigis Parkway.
Crews built a traffic island directly in front of his business, and they moved the driveway that serves Admiral and two other small businesses. Eventually, the asphalt roadway will be raised to be even with the concrete traffic island, allowing motorists to drive right over it into the business parking lot.
But for now the island is like a curb and drivers don’t know what to do, Anton said. Some drive over it, while others make U-turns. Some cars are using a woman’s driveway to turn around, he said.
“We’ve seen people go down and turn around at the Irving station,” Anton said. “Everyone comes in here and asks us, ‘What in the world is going on with that island?’ “
Anton also does not think the intersection will solve any of the problems with Payne Road.
“People will still cut through,” he said. “They are going to go the way they want to go, no matter what you do.”
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: