MOUNT DESERT — Shifting and rebuilding sections of Peabody Drive between Route 198 and Seal Harbor Beach — and making other safety improvements — would cost an estimated $12.5 million, according an engineering and transportation design firm hired last fall to determine the type and extent of work needed.
Tony Grande, a project manager at VHB Inc. in South Portland, presented “concept plans” to the Board of Selectmen on Monday. The most complicated and expensive part of the plan involves the section of road below Thuya Garden.
“We would shift the roadway probably 6 feet to the west, toward the harbor, in order to pull away from the rock wall and gain two 5-foot shoulders with 11-foot travel lanes,” Grande said.
That would require replacing the retaining wall below the roadway. Wire netting might be placed over the rock wall on the east side of the road to prevent loose rocks from falling onto the shoulder and traffic lanes.
“The path that leads down to Asticou Landing would need to be pushed out with a retaining wall, with possibly even another retaining wall on the outside of the path for some stretch,” Grande said.
The site distance at some of the tighter curves on the road would be improved by widening the shoulders and cutting into the bedrock.
The Peabody Drive improvement project would extend about 2.7 miles. For most of that distance, the travel lanes and shoulder would be widened to accommodate bicycles and improve overall safety.
The speed limit along most of the road is 35 mph. On one stretch, where the speed limit is 40, Grande is recommending that it be reduced to 35 and that the 30-mph limit in the area of the Asticou Inn be lowered to 25.
He pointed out that the estimated $12.5 million price tag for the entire project does not include the cost of right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, permitting, engineering and construction inspection.
Mount Desert Public Works Director Tony Smith said that, if the project is eventually approved by town officials and voters, he probably would recommend taking it on in four or five phases because of both the high cost and the impact on people who live along the road.
He said paying for the improvements almost certainly would require contributions from both the town and the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT).
“We also may ask local people to contribute to the cost,” he said.
The selectmen voted last September to hire VHB at a cost of $89,257 to study the Peabody Drive improvement needs and prepare concept plans. To cover just over half of that cost the Maine DOT awarded the town a $45,000 grant through its Planning Partnership Initiative.
The partnership agreement stated, “Peabody Drive currently suffers from unsafe and inconsistent or nonexistent 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.”
Private donors, including a number of cyclists, contributed $16,500 toward the town’s share of the cost of the VHB study.
Grande, the VHB project manager, told the selectmen Monday that he will consider any feedback he receives from town officials or the DOT in preparing final concept plans for Peabody Drive, which he intends to present to the selectmen sometime in June.