April 08, 2020

Bumpy, ice-covered roads reroute Capehart interior bus run

BANGOR — Ice buildup on city streets has forced the rerouting of one bus run, the superintendent of The Bus said this week.

The bus that normally goes through Capehart began Tuesday morning going around the perimeter of the area off Ohio Street.

Passengers have been picked up and dropped off at the Community Center on Davis Road at 10 minutes past the hour, and at 40 minutes past the hour.

“We’re not serving the interior of Capehart due to adverse road conditions,” McNeil explained, calling the roads “unbelievably bad.” He’s hoping that regular service through Capehart will be restored by Monday morning at the latest.

He added it was the first time The Bus has had to cut off part of a route in this manner during the 18 years he has been with the system.

McNeil and another employee visited the area earlier this week and found that the six- to eight-minute route took 20 minutes to drive, the kind of change a bus schedule just can’t accommodate.

Buses are thought of as vehicles with lots of road clearance, but that’s not true with those in the regional fleet.

“We only have six inches’ clearance” because the wheelchair lifts are so near to the ground, he said.

Traveling the Capehart streets was difficult on both passengers and drivers, and was causing “significant damange to wheelchair lifts,” McNeil said.

Assistant City Manager Robert Farrar said this week that public crews have been out doing some scraping of roads all week, breaking up ice chunks up to a foot thick.

School buses find rutted roads difficult to navigate as well, but an official from John T. Cyr and Sons in Old Town said the roads traveled by the company’s school buses were “fairly passable” this week. Cyr buses serve the Bangor school system, among others.

Farrar sent the City Council a memo about the Capehart route and the problems with traversing those streets.

In addition to the difficulty in completing the bus runs on time, Farrar informed councilors that “buses and bus drivers were being subjected to very difficult driving conditions, causing damage to the buses and three reported injuries to our drivers.”

Farrar said Wednesday that the drivers had filed “first injury reports” after being bumped around driving their routes, but that he didn’t know of anyone yet missing time from work.

City Manager Edward Barrett told the council Monday evening that clearing city streets was an ongoing process and was proving to be very difficult, especially with last weekend’s second round of rain and ice.

“Public works is trying to get intersections open,” Barrett said, both so cars could get into the streets and so that drivers could have improved visibility. The city has three graders working, he said, but there remained “a long list of streets that need to be attended to.”

Graders aren’t the best way to break up ice because they often damage the streets, too, Motor Pool Director Randy Mace told the finance committee last week.

The city has ordered an icebreaking attachment for one of its graders, equipment that uses a long row of star wheels with nubbly spokes to crunch through ice more quickly and safely than a grader can do by itself.

It will be a couple of weeks or so before the $15,000 item arrives, so public works crews will do what they can with graders in the meantime.

At the Jan. 12 council meeting, Barrett said the city had spent $150,000 so far on equipment, materials and overtime in coping with the ice storm. The final cost could be in the area of $750,000, he said.

Federal disaster funding will reimburse the city for 75 percent of the “extra costs” of the storm, Barrett said, but not work done in the regular course of the day. He told the council Monday that the state was expected to fund 15 percent of the disaster costs, money that would certainly help municipalities such as Bangor.

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