SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A vehicle traveling the two miles from one end of Seal Cove Road to the other in Tremont drives over a road maintained by three different entities — the state, the town and the National Park Service.
In a recent letter to Town Manager Justin VanDongen, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) said it is reviewing the classification of the half-mile portion now designated a state-aid highway. That half-mile begins at the start of Seal Cove Road from Main Street in Southwest Harbor and ends where it intersects with Long Pond and Freeman Ridge roads.
Maintenance of state aid highways are the responsibility of both the town and the state. Paving, which typically happens once every seven years, as well as repairs to culverts and ditches, are the state’s responsibility. Winter maintenance such as plowing, salting and sanding the road is the responsibility of the town.
“It is likely that the proper classification for this road is a Local Road because it functions more like a local road than a minor collector road,” the letter from Peter Coughlan, director of MDOT’s community services division states.
Road classifications are different than road designations, according to MDOT, but the functional classification of a road relates directly to its classification. This is mainly based on the area served by the road and daily traffic volume.
A response letter written by VanDongen and approved by selectmen on Tuesday, explains the traffic count on the first half mile of the road during the summer months exceeds the minimal volume required to designate the road a state-aid highway.
Not only does the road accommodate traffic for the business at Seal Cove Shops, but also the traffic from two towns using the transfer station on Long Pond Road, Acadia National Park access on that same road, as well as several businesses that use and transfer heavy equipment further along Seal Cove Road.
“In addition to the daily pressures on this section of road, this serves as the primary detour out of and into Southwest Harbor when there is an emergency closure on Route 102,” wrote VanDongen.
Submission of information to consider in their review process is requested by MDOT no later than March 6. It was not clear from the state’s inquiry when they would make a final determination of the classification of the road.