Sunday, May 19, 2013
WINDHAM - Whether to build a roundabout at the intersection of Windham Center and River roads is the central question still unanswered about a long-awaited project to fix a notoriously dangerous commuter route.
The Maine Department of Transportation will hold a final public meeting Monday to get feedback on its plans to rehabilitate -- and in some sections rebuild -- a 6-mile stretch of River Road, from Route 202 to Route 302.
The DOT has allotted $5.9 million for the project, which was scheduled for reconstruction in 2005 but got cut after $130 million in federal funding was slashed from the state's budget.
Ruts, potholes and poor visibility are among the problems with River Road, the site of frequent accidents. Crumbling pavement on the edges has forced drivers over the center line to avoid running off the side of the road.
A petition pleading for the state to fix the road circulated in 2009 and was signed by nearly 900 people.
In 2010, River Road won third place in a contest for the worst road in the state, put on by the Maine Better Transportation Association.
Today, there's a lot less white-knuckled driving, thanks to a paving job last fall that smoothed out the surface, but will only hold up for a couple of years, said Ernie Martin, the DOT's project manager.
"(It) helped the corridor, but it didn't help the problem," he said.
Water getting underneath the road -- the cause of the deterioration -- is the real issue, Martin said. To address that, the DOT will install a drainage system.
Martin said other work includes elevating sections of the hilly road to improve the ability of drivers to see what's coming.
To slow traffic on a flatter section of road approaching the intersection with Windham Center Road, the DOT is considering either adding left-turn lanes or building a roundabout.
That question will likely dominate the discussion at the meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the performing arts center at Windham High School on Gray Road.
Martin said a roundabout could add more than $400,000 to the project's cost and possibly put it over budget, depending on the state of the economy when it goes out to bid.
Construction is slated to start next summer and last at least through the fall of 2014.
Martin Shuer, a resident of nearby Colby Drive and a longtime proponent of the project, said, after much deliberation, he's decided the roundabout is the best way to go.
Shuer, who is running as an independent for the District 12 state Senate seat, is a member of a local committee of bicyclists and pedestrians, and believes that option is safest for them.
But he hopes residents, regardless of their opinion, will attend the meeting Monday.
"It's a chance for the public to be heard," he said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at