AUGUSTA — Gary Jones said he’s glad the two-year, multimillion-dollar construction project on Mount Vernon Avenue is finally done.

“It was a long time coming, but the road looks really good now,” said Jones, manager of the Capital Container redemption center. “We’ve already seen an increase in traffic, so we’re really happy it’s over.”

Work on the final part of the project started last July, and business owners along the corridor – who had to endure other work on Mount Vernon Avenue throughout 2014 as well – were ready to put the construction behind them.

“It’s going to be a positive for us, because this is a major thoroughfare and now nobody is worried about getting backed up,” Jones said in between collecting cans from customers. “I think it’s going to increase our business in the long run.”

Not everyone is happy with the project. Lou Craig, owner of College Carry-Out, said he was “shocked at the way his parking lot was treated.”

“My parking lot looks like a puzzle, and it’s all busted up,” Craig said by telephone Tuesday. “It’s been going on a long time, and I’ve tried to be a nice guy and have tried to have a good relationship (with everyone involved), but I’m not happy.”

Craig said in addition to leaving a patchwork parking lot with numerous cracks and filled-in spots, a fence in the back of the building was taken down but never put back. He said his complaints are in the hands of lawyers now.

“I don’t want any money, and I’ve never wanted any money,” Craig said. “I just want them to fix it.”

‘I’M TICKLED PINK’

Ted Talbot, press secretary for the Maine Department of Transportation, said sometimes there are adverse effects to businesses and residences, and the department has a practice of working with those most affected by their projects.

“Craig and the department are currently working together to find an amicable solution, and we’ll continue to work toward that goal,” Talbot said. “We look forward to reaching a positive outcome for everyone.”

Despite his displeasure with the condition of his parking lot, Craig had good things to say about the project and how it has transformed Mount Vernon Avenue.

“It’s an awesome improvement. People actually like driving through here now, and I’m tickled pink about that,” Craig said. “People are coming down and checking out the new road.”

Business was off to a record start at the beginning of the year, Craig said, but when the construction began in April, “it took the wind out of our sails a bit.”

He said there has been an increase in business the last few weeks and he’s hopeful it continues.

The final phase of the project began in April and included drainage improvements in front of the Bond Brook Mini Mall and completion of the retaining walls.

All the water and sewer work was completed in a previous phase.

In total, the project came in at $4.3 million.

Ernie Martin, project manager for the Maine DOT, said the contract with Pratt & Sons of Minot ended June 21 and cleanup and light maintenance work has happened the last few weeks.

“The project is complete, and we are moving on to the next one,” Talbot said.

He didn’t specify any upcoming work in Augusta, but the department placed a five-year moratorium on Mount Vernon Avenue during which no excavation will be allowed except in the event of an emergency.

Talbot said when the work began last year, many people had a tough time with the new traffic pattern.

“It was confusing for those that had driven Mount Vernon Avenue for years, and we understood that,” Talbot said. “There were some issues, including driver correction, that law enforcement was able to help with.”

‘THINGS WENT PRETTY SMOOTHLY’

Jared Mills, deputy chief of the Augusta Police Department, said the department didn’t have any of the problems it expected, including violations because of illegal turns and additional traffic back-ups.

“Things went pretty smoothly from a public safety standpoint,” Mills said.

The work required one-way, alternating traffic with flaggers, and work was sporadic up and down the corridor, with most of it involving the retaining walls.

As part of the paving project, which began July 13, 2015, the Maine DOT created a left turn onto Townsend Road from Marketplace Drive. The city of Augusta was in favor of the turn becoming permanent, but Talbot said the department needed to see how it worked during the construction.

“The Townsend Road left turn is now permanent,” Talbot said. “There was an overwhelming majority in favor of that.”

Martin and Augusta City Manager Willian Bridgeo said they’ve both received positive feedback from the public about the project.

Martin said people like the smoother ride and the permanent left turn onto Townsend Road.

Bridgeo said that while he was out of town last weekend, an elderly man from Litchfield approached him and thanked him for the work that was done on Mount Vernon Avenue and other city roads recently.

Bridgeo praised Maine DOT officials for keeping the public informed about the work and thanked business owners for their patience during what he said was an “obvious hardship.”

He hopes the new road brings more people to the corridor.

“I think (everyone) is happy to have the new road; happy to be rid of the terrible, old conditions; and glad the construction is behind them,” Bridgeo said. “Before the project began, members of the public would avoid Mount Vernon Avenue, so I think having this new road will stimulate business.”

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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