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Sanford Awarded $25M in Federal Funds for Downtown Revitalization Project

Artist's rendering of proposed improvements to Main St. by Sunset Tower.

Press Release

The City of Sanford announced this week that it will receive a federal award of $25 million for a necessary and much-anticipated revitalization of its downtown. The RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) Grant application was submitted by the City in collaboration with the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT).  Dependent upon the final bid award, there will be a MaineDOT and local match of approximately $10M. The $25M project award will be used entirely for construction, with the City and MaineDOT fully funding the design costs. Much of the preliminary design work has already been done as part of the Planning Partnership Initiative (PPI) with MaineDOT.

“The RAISE Grant merit criteria closely mirrored both local and statewide goals for Sanford’s future. We are looking forward to continuing our innovative approaches towards economic competitiveness, quality of life, and environmental sustainability through Sanford’s infrastructure,” says Sanford Director of Public Works, Matthew Hill.

The project will completely reconstruct approximately .5 miles of Main St. (Route 109) in the heart of downtown Sanford. This includes widening sidewalks, installation of energy-efficient streetlights, parking improvements, and communications to include new fiber optic conduits for SanfordNet Fiber. SanfordNet Fiber is a 45-mile municipally-owned network capable of supporting significant growth in the downtown and mill district.

Improvements will be made to roughly .5 miles of William Oscar Emery Dr. and Riverside Ave. as part of the Mousam Promenade, which involves complete road reconstruction and a 10′ wide 2.5 kilometer multi-modal path around Sanford’s No. 1 Pond. The Promenade will make a full loop around the pond, embracing a highly walkable downtown and acting as a key connector for Sanford’s 45-mile bike and pedestrian trails network. (The River St. side of the Promenade is a separate project, not part of the RAISE Grant, that is being funded by the City and MaineDOT as part of their Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI).)

A major arterial into Sanford and its downtown, Cottage St. (Route 202) will have complete street improvements of around 0.7 miles. The project will preserve the unique architecture along the street and provide improved access to Sanford’s Historic Mill District. 

Washington St. acts as a key downtown connector into the Historic Mill District and will see approximately 0.2 miles of improvements, including significant intersection improvements at School, High, and River Sts.

School St. will see 0.2 miles of connectivity improvements for downtown businesses and Central Park access.

A park-and-ride facility will be built on Emerson St. to serve the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other regional employers. The park-and-ride will be built with sustainability in mind, with an emphasis on rideshare options, vanpools, micro-transit, and EV charging station opportunities.

The project will improve safety aspects of all the streets involved for pedestrians, motorists, and all road users; modernize infrastructure to attract potential employers and commercial and residential development; and meet ADA and MaineDOT standards. 

Senator Collins, the Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, and Maine’s entire congressional delegation were very supportive of Sanford’s application in this highly competitive process. Upon announcing the awards, Senator Collins released this statement: 

“As the Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, securing funding to improve Maine’s infrastructure and bolster our economy is one of my top priorities.” 

“The investment in Sanford is exciting and will be transformative. It will help revitalize the downtown and improve the quality of life for the city’s residents, attract more visitors, and support small businesses.”

Partnerships were vital to the successful grant application. Sanford has been successfully partnering with MaineDOT, particularly since the advent of their MPI and PPI programs, to better target both municipal and state infrastructure funding opportunities. City Manager Steven Buck said, “The City could not have had a more invested partner working on this application to the US Dept. of Transportation than the Maine Dept. of Transportation.” The RAISE Grant program provided a unique opportunity for MaineDOT and Sanford to invest in road projects that promise to achieve national objectives.

The City worked with MaineDOT to encapsulate a number of partnership agreements within the boundaries of the project. MaineDOT’s Village Partnership Initiative – the first of its kind – highlights MaineDOT’s focus on helping revitalize Maine’s downtowns and villages. Other recent collaborations between MaineDOT and Sanford include the Safe Routes to School Program and various State-Municipal Agreements for Work.   

The Sanford City Council has been a key driver in this application through a series of resolutions which included initial bonding of $6.2M for streets, an increased commitment for capital expenditures for the roads, support for the PPI, and ultimately support for staff to pursue the RAISE Grant.

The City of Sanford and MaineDOT have been working on the planning and engineering for these streets for several years. The City will start working on the final design, right-of-way survey, and preparation of documents to move towards construction. Construction on the RAISE Grant projects are anticipated to start in the summer of 2026 and be completed by 2030. The River St. portion of the Mousam Promenade is scheduled for construction in 2023.

Sanford’s full RAISE Grant application can be found online at: https://www.maine.gov/mdot/grants/raise/

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