Traffic is backed up at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the intersection of Main Street and William Clarke Drive. The line of traffic coming off Main Street at left is waiting to continue on to New Gorham Road. The pickup waits to make a left turn on to William Clarke Drive, which is down to one lane eastbound because of construction equipment. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Orange signs, barrels and road cones greet commuters and shoppers these days as three separate Westbrook construction projects bring traffic headaches and impede business downtown.

Some, but not all, relief is down the road.

The three projects are the Maine Department of Transportation widening of William Clarke Drive (Route 25) to improve traffic flow at its intersection with Main Street and New Gorham Road; the makeover of Westbrook Commons on Main Street; and the development of the block-long Vertical Harvest, public parking garage and apartment complex on the site of the now-closed Mechanic Street parking lot.

Traffic backs up on New Gorham Road at William Clarke Drive at 4:30 p.m. Monday. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The closing of a section of Main Street downtown with its related detours and the William Clarke Drive construction, combined with the current state of the economy, create “a perfect storm for sales decline,” said Joe Salisbury, owner of the Daily Grind coffee shop and The Daily Scoop ice cream on Main Street.

Westbrook has growing pains, Mayor Michael Foley said Monday, and “it definitely has impacted businesses.”

The street closure stemmed from the need to relocate water and sewer lines to make way for the Vertical Harvest project and municipal parking garage.


“We don’t want a pipe running under a parking garage,” Liam Turner, project engineer for Wright-Ryan Construction, said Monday.

The recent discovery of unexpected ledge under Main Street near the intersection with Mechanic Street has delayed the main drag’s reopening.

Foley said it is hoped Main Street will fully reopen in mid-September while work on Mechanic Street continues into November.

The William Clarke Drive project, however, has hit a few snags and the state’s “best guess” is that it will be finished next spring, according to MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill.

“The contract states the work is to be done by Dec. 16; however, the signal poles/mast arms are on back order, so the plan is to get as much completed this season as possible and then come back when the new signal poles/mast arms are in and complete the work,” Merrill said Tuesday.

The state is upgrading William Clarke Drive from its intersection with Mechanic Street to the intersection of Main Street and New Gorham Road. Lane closures appear to vary daily but are open for the most part during rush hours.


That delay presents continuing frustration for commuters and also for school buses soon to be transporting students to area vocational schools. Districts like Gorham will have to “live with it,” said Norm Justice, Gorham transportation director.

Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley, shown here with the Vertical Harvest building rising in the background, says that when all the construction is done “we’ll be in good shape for a long time.” Robert Lowell / American Journal

Meanwhile, steel girders for the four-story, 70,000-square-foot Vertical Harvest building developed in partnership with the city are going up on the former municipal parking lot. Vertical Harvest is a hydroponic farm and the complex will include residential units and commercial spaces.

The next phase is the four-story, parking garage with 400 free spaces, Foley said, expanding the 100 spaces in the former Mechanic Street lot. Foundation work is underway and the garage is expected to open sometime near the end of 2023 with entry behind CVS.

The addition of the parking garage means other downtown city lots, such as the one between TD Bank and Bank of America, are possibilities for future development, Foley said.

When all the construction is done, he said, “we’ll be in good shape for a long time.”

Until then, the city is working with impacted businesses to aid revenues, Foley said. On Monday, the city used economic development funds to help China Villa Restaurant on Main Street provide free lunches for the first 100 customers. Similar events have involved Mast Landing, Profenno’s Restaurant and Istanbul Restaurant and Bakery.


At the Daily Grind, Salisbury said his business, “like most” downtown, has been hurt by the road closure.

Customers from Gorham, Standish and the Saco Street side of Westbrook have to drive on William Clarke Drive past his business and then turn left onto Spring and Main streets and left again into the coffee drive-thru, he said. They also get tied up in the traffic jams on William Clarke Drive.

The ice cream shop is doing well but pedestrian traffic is down, he said.

“Unfortunately, all we can do is watch our expenses and payroll and wait this all out. In the long run, the upgrades will benefit Westbrook and the downtown businesses,” Salisbury said.

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