Traffic improvements at the busy Cumberland Mills intersections have been delayed because of the rising costs of the project. File photo

WESTBROOK — An improvement project at the Cumberland Mills intersection scheduled for this summer has been put on hold for another year after the lone bid for it nearly doubled the city’s expected share of expenses to $1,180,220.

Shaw Earthworks of Gorham bid $2.8 million on the project, which includes adding signals and signs and resurfacing the heavily used multi-intersection traffic circle. Approved in 2018, the project initially was expected to cost about $2.1 million, with state and federal funds paying for most of it. By the time bids were requested in February of this year, labor costs throughout the state had risen.

“Between the price of asphalt and construction costs going through the roof, we thought (bids would be high), but not like this,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.

The bid would have the city’s share of the project at $1,180,220, $850,000 more than agreed to. Initially, the city’s was prepared to pay $325,000, but was revised to $646,000 to reflect the rising costs.

The state deemed the site, a triangle with four intersections, where Harnois Avenue, Warren Avenue, Cumberland Street and Main Street converge, as a “High Crash Location.”

“The intersection of Warren Avenue and Cumberland Street is a High Crash Location,” Director of Engineering and Public Services Eric Dudley said in a previous interview with the American Journal. “We continue to see a high volume of crashes at the intersection. Between the years of 2016 and 2019 there have been 81 crashes at that location per Maine DOT statistics.”

An average of 15,275 vehicles travel on Main Street per day, 9,783 on Cumberland Street, 16,467 on Harnois Avenue and 9,094 on Warren Avenue, making for congested intersections.

The project will still happen, Bryant said, but may be altered in order to lower costs.

“We put this project out to bid but only received one bid and it was too high. We rejected that bid and plan to put the project back out to bid in November. We hope to move forward with this important project, but we need to ensure that Maine taxpayers are getting value for their investment,” said Paul Merrill, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Transportation.

If the contract is awarded after the November bid, it is unlikely work would start before May 2021, Merrill said.

The city has received $325,000 in bond funds to help pay for the project. Since they can’t return the bond, they will have to spend that money within about four years to keep it from becoming taxable. The City Council is using that money to fund other road projects, including Cumberland Street paving and sidewalk work for $292,008 and the Saco Street retaining wall for $37,623.

“Cumberland Street resurfacing is occurring now,” Dudley said. “The Saco Street retaining wall was completed in the beginning of June.”

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