HALLOWELL — An agreement between the city and state to rebuild much of Water Street through the downtown area, a project that is years away, was finalized after a city council vote on Monday.
However, the project’s full scope may not be finalized for another year. Some Hallowell businesspeople have been concerned with the impact it could have on foot traffic downtown for nearly half a year.
On Monday, city officials approved an agreement, with the Maine Department of Transportation, to rebuild a stretch of the street likely from the snow dump site at the northern end to the boat landing on the southern end.
That stretch alone would cost $3.1 million in state and federal money. But Hallowell could authorize additional improvements, such as new sidewalks and a sidewalk extension to the boat landing, more street-side parking, lighting and roof drains.
With the state bearing 80 percent of sidewalk costs, all of that would cost city taxpayers another $232,000, the agreement says.
But decisions on those additions and the scope of the project might be months away, said Councilor Alan Stearns, the chairman of the council’s Highway Committee.
He said additions wouldn’t have to be finalized for up to a year when the transportation department finishes the project’s preliminary design phase. Councilors could also decide to shorten the stretch of the road to be replaced before that deadline.
That “allows us to punt, in some ways” for now on many of those key decisions, Stearns said.
The reconstruction project couldn’t happen until 2017. Stearns has said it may not happen for up to 10 years.
Water Street has an exaggerated crown in the middle and slopes steeply toward the sidewalk on the Kennebec River side, making it easy for a passenger to hit their car door on the bricks.
City councilors have staunchly favored rebuilding the stretch through downtown, but business owners have been wary. Many see the need for a reconstruction project, but say if the road closed for five to six months — as is estimated — small businesses could go under.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652