Attorneys for the town of Wiscasset argued in court Thursday for a preliminary injunction to halt progress on the Maine Department of Transportation’s plan to alter the historic village’s downtown traffic and parking pattern in an effort to ease notorious summertime bottlenecks.

Justice Michaela Murphy, a Superior Court justice in Kennebec County, oversaw the hearing Thursday in Business and Consumer Court in Portland. She did not make a decision after a three-hour hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse.

Wiscasset attorney John Shumadine and MDOT attorneys Jim Billings and Nathaniel Rosenblatt spoke to the court about the project and questioned witnesses about what they know about the scope of the work and the methods the MDOT uses when planning and completing a project of this magnitude.

The town sued MDOT on Nov. 28 over the state’s $5 million plan to ease summertime traffic jams in the village center after Gov. Paul LePage’s administration allegedly backed away from key promises and asserted the state didn’t have to comply with local ordinances.

The motion argued Thursday asks the court to prevent work on any part of the project from commencing until the department seeks and receives the town’s historic preservation review.

Wiscasset voters will decide Tuesday in a special election whether the town should continue its lawsuit against the MDOT, and there continues to be discussion and confusion over how the town’s legal fees will be paid.


A local resident, Ralph Doering, has offered to pay all of the town’s legal fees and has opened an escrow account with $75,000 that would be used to offset any potential cost to taxpayers. The Select Board said at its meeting last week that it has not decided whether to accept money from an outside source to pay for the lawsuit.

One of the town’s biggest contentions is that the plan that went out to bid in March was not the same as the one presented to Wiscasset officials and residents throughout the planning and design process.

In order to offset elimination of downtown, on-street parking, the MDOT planned to demolish a building at 36 Water St. and construct a municipal parking lot on the property. William Pulver, director of project development and deputy chief engineer for the MDOT, said bids were accepted for the demolition work but weren’t awarded because of the town’s lawsuit.

Construction of the parking lot at 36 Water St. is not included in the work currently out for bid. Pulver said with a short construction season, it would be too difficult to complete that parking lot while also completing the originally planned work in downtown Wiscasset.

“I think the future of 36 Water Street is uncertain at this point,” he said.

Erika Soule, a Wiscasset business owner and only witness called by the town, said she’s been following the process from the beginning and expressed concern about the impact that project will have.


“My first thought was that removing the on-street parking (in downtown Wiscasset) was going to really harm my business,” Soule said. “I think it will have a severe impact on people’s ability to access Main Street in general and getting to and from the store.”

MDOT project manager Ernie Martin testified that traffic flow and safety are the primary goals of the Wiscasset project. He said bids are expected to be opened Wednesday, and there have been no meetings between town and MDOT officials since the lawsuit was filed in late November.

The town has argued that the project, and numerous components, must comply with the town’s historic preservation ordinance and must receive one or more certificates of appropriateness from Wiscasset’s historic preservation commission.

The center of Wiscasset’s village is made up largely of 18th- and 19th-century buildings named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

In a motion filed in early March, attorneys representing the town said MDOT told them it might simply drop a component of the project if the department is required to adhere to historical preservation rules.

“This raises the possibility that MDOT might seek a truncated project that strips all parking from Main Street but does not provide any off-street parking in its place, a configuration that was never reviewed or discussed with the town and that does even more violence to the local interests than the original scheme,” Shumadine wrote in a filing last month.

The transportation department has contended that the town’s historic preservation ordinance is not a zoning ordinance, and therefore it isn’t forced to comply with it under state law.

There are daily and infamous traffic jams 2 to 3 miles long on Route 1 on the north and south approaches to the Davey Bridge that spans the Sheepscot River. The state has been trying to solve the problem for more than 50 years.

The state’s latest plan was unveiled two years ago and promised to improve traffic flow at its worst by 12 percent to 14 percent..

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