Bath Iron Works is resurfacing an old transport road that runs along Washington Street between the shipyard and the dog park so it can be used for temporary overflow parking. The old road is one of the temporary parking lots employees must use while the shipyard’s bus shuttle program is suspended. Photo courtesy of Dave Beemer

BATH — After Bath Iron Works’ shuttle program, which brings most of the 6,700 employees to work, was suspended due to concerns over coronavirus, shipyard workers are parking in temporary lots around Bath.

One of these temporary lots is a BIW-owned dirt road that runs between the shipyard and the dog park on Washington Street. The shipyard is resurfacing the road with gravel. Scott Davis, Bath’s codes enforcement officer, said BIW has been cleared by the city and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to resurface the road adjacent to the wetlands.

Peter Owen, Bath’s city manager, said the road is not being expanded and erosion control measures have been installed to protect the wetland area between the road and the Kennebec River.

“We don’t want employees flooding the residential streets, so we’d rather have them park there on a temporary basis,” said Owen.

While BIW is cleared to resurface the road with gravel, it hasn’t recieved approval from the city to pave the road.

“If they were looking to do any paving, they would have to go through a site plan process,” said Ben Averill, Bath’s city planner. “Our hope is this is only temporary.”

While BIW owns that parcel, Owen assured the city “certainly wouldn’t look the other way if they started covering up wetlands.”

According to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, more than a third of the United States’ threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives.

BIW employees have also been cleared to park underneath the Route 1 overpass, which cuts across Bath, and the parking lot of Morse High School, as all RSU 1 schools have closed through March 27.

According to a 2019 city report, BIW uses 1,604 parking spaces spread across 16 parking lots. This includes three satellite lots – the Taste of Maine parking lot in Woolwich, the MaineDOT Park and Ride lot on State Road in Bath off Route 1, and the Maine Gravel parking lot in West Bath.

According to 2016 Maine Department of Transportation data, an average of 6,400 cars drive along Washington Street in the South End daily.

Previously, BIW workers could park in satellite lots in the Midcoast area, such as the Taste of Maine restaurant parking lot in Woolwich. Workers would then be brought to the shipyard by bus or van, but the program was suspended to protect employees from potentially spreading coronavirus, which the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes is spread through person-to-person contact and when respiratory droplets, produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, land in a person’s eyes, mouth or are inhaled.

Public health officials are urging everyone to practice good hygiene – such as washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer as a backup – as well as keeping a 6-foot buffer between others, avoiding large gatherings and practicing “social distancing.”

While this is a temporary solution, Bath officials don’t know how long workers will be allowed to park in the overflow lots.

BIW did not return requests for comment.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection couldn’t be reached for comment.

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