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Public Works Director Matt Hill

At the City Council’s workshop on roads held October 25, 2022, Public Works Director Matt Hill made a presentation on the City’s plan for road maintenance and construction for the next five years. The recent award of the $25 million federal RAISE Grant to reconstruct Sanford’s downtown streets, made possible by a close partnership with MaineDOT, allows the City to stretch local resources to go as far as possible for the benefit of all residents.

Five Year Plan

The long-range plan is a dynamic document with many variables that is subject to change. The City uses a data-driven system to determine which roads get which type of reconstruction or maintenance and at which time.

2022: The Westside Village project is nearing completion and is scheduled to be wrapped up this year. The streets that have been rebuilt are Shaw St., Berwick Ave., Prescott St., and parts of Kimball St. and Twombley Rd.

2023: River St. from High St. to Spartan Drive is scheduled for reconstruction. This is the eastern side of the Mousam Promenade project. Winter Street is scheduled to be rehabbed with a shim/overlay course of paving to extend its life. The parking lot at City Hall will likely be repaved as well.

2024: Reconstruction of High St. from River to Emery will begin that year, if a partnership with MaineDOT can be forged to help with the expected $2 million price tag. Bougie Ln. and Maine St. are also planned for full reconstruction. Areas that are scheduled for rehab work in 2024 include the Island/Davis/Gowen/Thompson/Hammond/Tanguay neighborhood; Grant, Joy, King and Kirk Streets in Springvale; and Cotswald St. Reclamation, which involves grinding up the existing pavement and relaying it, is scheduled for Beaconsfield St. as well as the Bowdoin/Bates/Harvard neighborhood. Overlook Dr. and Crossingbrook Rd. will have a pavement overlay.

2025: Work on High St. will continue. Main St. from Farview to the roundabout is another planned project that is eligible for MaineDOT funds. Roads at the Airport are scheduled for rehabilitation, and may be eligible for a Business Partnership Initiative. Work on Brunelle St, Pierce Ave. and Theriault St. is planned as well. Rushton St. is also on the 2025 schedule at this time, although Mr. Hill anticipates subgrade problems with that project.

2026: The RAISE Grant projects will begin, and continue through 2030. The projects will be broken down into four components: Downtown, the west side of the Mousam Promenade, Cottage St., and the Park and Ride on Emerson St. The components will be further broken down into individual projects. MaineDOT will have a separate website for each segment which will allow the public to track its progress. Mr. Hill explained that the reason it will take a few years for construction to begin is that there are many steps to go through first, including public hearings, more engineering work, right of way appraisals and negotiations, environmental approvals and utilities certification.

In addressing concerns of residents who fear the reconstruction will encroach on their property, Mr. Hill said MaineDOT doesn’t like to buy property unless absolutely necessary. Each property owner will be contacted individually, in a process that is expected to take two years.

The first public hearing on the RAISE Grant projects is scheduled for Thursday, November 17, 2022. An open house will be held in Council Chambers from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., followed by the public hearing (in-person and virtual) from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Maintenance Matters

Mr. Hill explained that when he took the job eight years ago, the Public Works Department spent about half its manpower on road construction and the other half on maintenance. But data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that it is more cost effective to keep good roads in good condition than to rebuild them, so now the Department focuses on maintenance and contracts out construction projects whenever possible.

In 2017, the condition of all roads in Sanford/Springvale was assessed by a consulting firm, the Beta Group of Manchester, NH. At that time, the average score for roads (known as the Pavement Condition Index or PCI) in town was 69.21 out of 100.

After voters approved the $6.2 million road bond in 2019, the Council lent its support to increased funding for capital improvements that would aim to raise the PCI by half a point per year, with an ultimate goal of getting to a score of 85. However, Mr. Hill said that rapid inflation in the construction industry has severely impacted the amount of work that can be done with the planned funds. For example, in 2015, it cost $1 million per mile for road reconstruction, while today that number is $3 million or more.

Last week, the City Council approved having a new assessment done to see how conditions have improved over the past five years. When the assessment is complete, the results will be presented to the Council at a public meeting. The updated assessment may greatly impact the five-year plan outlined above.

Public Comments

Several members of the public offered input at the meeting.

William Demattia of Tall Pines Dr. praised the rapid response of the Public Works Department in filling potholes, but he said sinkholes are starting to develop that need more than just patching.

Tom Lapierre of Cottage St. complained about tractor trailers speeding down the street and about manholes that need to be brought up to grade. Mr. Hill responded that the manholes will be addressed when the road is reconstructed. Deputy Mayor Herlihy said she believes that tractor trailers use Cottage St. in order to avoid the state weigh station, and that perhaps the Sanford Police Department could coordinate traffic enforcement on Cottage St. with days the weigh station is open. City Manager Steve Buck said another issue that he has been trying to get the state to address for years is that the weight limit on the Maine Turnpike is lower than it is on other roads, which encourages truckers to drive through downtown areas instead.

Ginger, a resident of Twombley Rd., complained that the new stop signs in the Westside Village area are too high and difficult to see. Mr. Hill said that any stop sign adjacent to a walking path has to have 7-foot clearance, and these newest signs in town are meeting that standard. Councilor Bob Stackpole suggested the type of sign that lights up would be more visible.

Lee Burnett of Cycle Sanford and Lawrence Furbish of the Trails Committee asked the Council for assistance in connecting sections of the trails that are disconnected at present. Mr. Burnett pointed out that many residents do not have vehicles, and many students walk or bike to school, so the trails should be considered part of the City’s transportation network and not just a recreational feature. Mr. Furbish said they hope to eventually connect to the Eastern Trail, the 65+-mile bike route from Kittery to South Portland, which is a substantial economic generator for southern Maine.

Mr. Buck and Mr. Hill both emphasized that it is the partnerships that Sanford has developed with MaineDOT and others that has attracted the funding which will enable the City to make great strides in improving its roads over the next several years.

This is a very short summary of the workshop/presentation. The full video may be viewed on Town Hall Streams here: https://townhallstreams.com/stream.php?location_id=82&id=47697.

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