Wiscasset’s April 17 “no” vote showed that voters feared the town would become mired in an expensive lawsuit against the Maine Department of Transportation. It was not, however, a vote in favor of MDOT’s Option 2. In fact, in 2017, Wiscasset voters, in a binding referendum, rejected changes MDOT made to Option 2 after a nonbinding vote in favor of the plan in 2016.

Option 2’s problems remain:

Wiscasset’s code enforcement officer notified MDOT last November that it must comply with the town’s historic preservation ordinance before making changes in the historic district. MDOT hasn’t done this.

Option 2 will do little to relieve summer congestion. MDOT says it will improve traffic through-put by only 4 percent, reducing wait times by about 15 seconds. A MDOT engineer warned that traffic will still back up at peak times. According to MDOT’s latest cost estimates, Option 2’s price tag has exploded to over $6.8 million, not including the costs of the unnecessary demolition of the Haggett building.

An independent engineer offered credible challenges to MDOT’s engineering studies, but neither MDOT nor Wiscasset’s town manager has proved willing to consider these in an open forum.

Option 2 puts our small businesses in jeopardy by removing storefront parking.

Wiscasset’s lawsuit raised awareness that traffic management techniques could help MDOT meet the requirements of the 1991 Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act, which mandates attention to community input, comprehensive plans and ordinances and alternatives to costly construction. For example, through smart technologies, a system of live-time alerts could help keep traffic moving.

The fight to defend Wiscasset against MDOT’s ill-conceived Option 2 and refusal to abide by town and state law is far from over. Maine citizens are watching to see if MDOT will continue to threaten historic towns and small businesses and ignore the law.

Seaver Leslie

Wiscasset