BAR HARBOR — The planned $18 million rebuild of Route 3 between Ireson Hill near Pirate’s Cove mini golf and Mount Desert Street downtown will take several years, senior project manager Rhobi Moulton told members of an advisory committee July 23.
Work is expected to begin in the fall of 2016, she said, and could take up to four years. The schedule will depend on whether work is allowed seven days a week and at night, and also on traffic restrictions. Moulton explained several schedule alternatives.
Work would be complete in the fall of 2020 given a six-day work week and a suspension of construction in July and August each year. It could be done by the fall of 2019 using detours to create one-way traffic loops in peak season. Alternating two-way traffic would be used the rest of the year.
The shortest timeline, finishing in the spring of 2019, would include contractor incentives such as limited construction activities at night and seven-day work weeks.
All the schedule options assume that the work will go from north to south to allow the associated utility work on power and phone lines and sewer and water pipes to be done ahead of the road work. A six-day work week is standard. They also factor in winter slowdowns or suspensions depending on the weather.
If detours are used, they would affect traffic only on half of the project’s nearly five-mile length at a time. A proposed one-way loop for the northern half would bring inbound traffic on Route 3 and send outbound traffic on the Crooked Road to Norway Drive or out to Town Hill.
Once the roadwork north of the Acadia National Park’s entrance in Hull’s Cove is complete and construction moves to the southern section, a second one-way loop would use the Park Loop Road. Initial plans included sending inbound traffic on the Loop Road and outbound on Route 3. But representatives from hotels and business owners worried it would be confusing for visitors.
“Having the inbound one-way on Route 3 is more palatable from the businesses’ perspective,” Bar Harbor Public Works Director Chip Reeves said. Hotel representatives said they could encourage the use of hotel shuttles for guests headed to and from the village from their hotels.
Jim Willis, police chief for the towns of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert, noted that some proposed detour routes go through Mount Desert, so town officials there should be consulted. Acadia planner John Kelly said the team creating the Island Explorer bus schedule would need to know well ahead of time what the detours are going to be.
A proposed multi-use path from Hulls Cove along the western side of Route 3 and into Acadia National Park is back in the plans following concerns shared at an August 2013 committee meeting that it had been scrapped. The path is in addition to a paved shoulder on that section of the road. DOT planner Fred Michaud said experienced road cyclists may feel comfortable riding on the shoulder, but the path was designed for children or inexperienced cyclists trying to reach the park entrance safely.
Members of the committee expressed concern about landscaping, trees and historic stone walls that may be impacted by the project.
“I do not think that either the committee or the community fully understands some of the impact as you get into town,” Edith Milbury said. “What kind of landscaping will replace all of the trees that are going? While we have to address safety, I don’t think it should be to the exclusion of what it is that the visitor comes down that hill and sees.”
A landscape architect is just beginning work on surveying and design, Moulton said, and hopes to save trees of particular importance. Right-of-way negotiations with impacted landowners are set for the spring of next year.
A public meeting is planned this fall to inform the public on construction plans. “Design-wise, where we’re at is closer to final than preliminary. So any changes going forward are going to be costly,” she said.
The advisory committee is an extension of the Maine Department of Transportation’s “context sensitive solutions” team that helped design the plan for the rebuilt road. It includes property owners, town officials and representatives of the business community, College of the Atlantic and Acadia National Park.
The Maine Department of Transportation’s preliminary design report can be found here.