The town of Falmouth is holding a public forum Sept. 11 to discuss fixes for Blackstrap Road, where many sections are in poor condition. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

FALMOUTH — Town officials and residents are in agreement that Blackstrap Road is in bad repair, particularly the sections that the Maine Department of Transportation is responsible for keeping up.

That’s why the town is hoping to create a plan that will address the various issues plaguing the road.

To that end a public forum will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Town Hall to discuss possible fixes, including adding shoulders to provide better pedestrian and bicycle access, while maintaining the rural character of the roadway.

Theo Holtwijk, director of long-range planning and economic development, said the goal of the forum is to provide some initial suggestions for upgrades and to get public reaction. Ultimately, he said, the town hopes to approach the state Department of Transportation with a fully fleshed-out plan, including costs, that the state and Falmouth could work on implementing together.

While residents want to see Blackstrap Road fixed, they also want to keep the rural character of the road, including stonewalls, like this one. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

In April 2018, Holtwijk said town staff held an initial meeting with residents to determine the most important issues. Among those, he said was the “really bad condition” of the road, people driving too fast and the difficulty of walking or riding a bike on the road.

At that meeting, Holtwijk said “we heard loud and clear that residents want the road fixed,” even though they were also “really concerned about any improvements having no undue impact on the character of the road,” which, he said, includes preserving the mature trees and stone walls that line the sides of Blackstrap in many places.

The town then hired T.Y. Lin International Group, a Falmouth-based engineering consulting firm, to conduct an inspection that included taking soil borings to determine the underlying condition of the roadbed.

Unfortunately, Holtwijk said the borings show that much of the road requires complete reconstruction, not just a pavement overlay, in order to fix some of the most critical structural issues, including improved drainage.

He said the town is looking at upgrading the entire 6 miles of Blackstrap Road that runs parallel to the turnpike through West Falmouth. Holtwijk said while the town has been pretty good about maintaining the 2 miles of the road it’s responsible for, the state has had trouble keeping up with its section of road in recent years.

It’s unclear how much upgrades to Blackstrap Road would cost; Holtwijk said it would depend on the plan the Town Council eventually adopts. But the goal would be to pursue the option that provides the best overall value and longevity. With help from public input, he said, “we’re trying to strike the right balance.”

Currently there are three possibilities, he said. One option is a complete reconstruction of the road, which would likely cost “multiple millions,” Holtwijk said. Another option would be to conduct what he called a “full depth reclamation” on certain areas. A third option would include grinding up and reusing current materials to repave the road.

“Once we get a preferred design we can then refine the costs,” he said.

Holtwijk said coming out of next week’s public forum, “we hope to get a plan that people like,” but said the town also needs to look at how upgrades to Blackstrap Road fit in with both its own and the state’s current infrastructure improvement plans.

Much of what can be done will also depend on what MDOT is willing to do, he added.

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