MOUNT DESERT — Local cycling enthusiasts have so far raised more than $16,000 toward the town’s $45,000 share of the cost to study the feasibility of making safety improvements to the 2.9 miles of Peabody Drive (Route 3) between Asticou Azalea Garden and Seal Harbor Beach.
The board of selectmen voted Monday night to hire engineering and design firm VHB Inc. of South Portland to do the work at a cost of $89,257.
Voters at town meeting last May authorized the town to spend up to $100,000 for such a study. The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) and the town subsequently calculated the cost at $90,000, and the DOT has awarded the town a $45,000 grant through its Planning Partnership Initiative.
The town’s partnership agreement with the DOT states, “Peabody Drive currently suffers from unsafe and inconsistent or non-existent paved shoulders, compromised sight lines and inconsistent roadway widths.
“Peabody Drive raises safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians and the steady summer vehicular traffic, creating hazardous conflicts for all modes of transportation.”
The first step in correcting those problems is a “feasibility analysis” to determine the type and extent of improvements needed.
The informal Peabody Drive bike committee initially proposed the feasibility study and volunteered to raise a portion of the funds for it. Gordon Beck, the bike group’s coordinator, reported that, as of the end of the December, they had received $14,600 in donations from more than 30 individuals and several foundations and pledges totaling another $1,700. And he said donations are still coming in.
With the $45,000 DOT grant and $16,300 in donations and pledges already received, the town will have to pay, at most, $28,700 of the maximum of $100,000 that voters authorized at town meeting.
Public Works Director Tony Smith told the selectmen Monday that three engineering and design firms responded to a request for proposals for the feasibility study. He said VBH was the top choice of all four people who reviewed the proposals.
He said the firm’s work, including estimating the cost of making the road improvements, is expected to take seven or eight months.
“Then I would come back to (the selectmen) to see if you want to go to town meeting to raise design funds,” Smith said. “If those were approved at town meeting, it will be designed and we will have real [construction] costs.”
He said the town would not be expecting to pay the entire cost of construction.
“It would be a cost share with DOT, the town and others,” he said. “And we have ideas of the others who may come forward when the time is right.”