April 04, 2020

Houlton, DOT deal makes way for road repairs

HOULTON – It was a small victory, but one that will give a bit of a reprieve to the shocks and struts of vehicles that frequently travel along Bangor Street.

Town councilors on Monday evening approved a construction area agreement between the town and the state Department of Transportation. The move will allow the DOT to bring heavy machinery into the town to redo a section of the road.

“This is not the entire road, but we are making progress,” said Town Manager Doug Hazlett. “They are basically redoing a section of the road.”

It is significant, however, as town officials have written letters, sought assistance from local and state representatives and pleaded publicly with the DOT to effect change in a decision made last year once again to defer the reconstruction of Bangor Street.

The state-owned route, which is infamous among local people for the depth of its potholes and the length of its cracks, provides access to nearby Hodgdon and is heavily traveled.

The volume of traffic and onset of spring weather combine each year to pock the road with additional cracks and potholes, despite ongoing repairs by public works crews.

In 2001, voters decided to raise $200,000 as the local share of the reconstruction. The project has been delayed every year since then.

The DOT announced last year that it would be deferring one-fifth of all projects proposed for the current two-year budget cycle, a total of $130 million worth of projects located in 140 communities across the state.

DOT Commissioner David Cole said the hurricanes that battered the Gulf Coast last fall created a spike in demand for construction materials. He added that the cost of construction is expected to continue to rise because of higher oil prices affecting highway and bridge repairs and construction.

Provisions in the new federal transportation law also will affect the DOT’s cash flow throughout the next five years, he said.

The rationale has infuriated municipal officials, who have labeled Bangor Street as both an embarrassment and a public safety issue.

Although the group approved the deal, Councilor Paul Cleary joked that he had another idea in mind.

“Why don’t we say ‘no’ [to this project] until they agree to fix the whole Bangor road?” he said on Monday evening.

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