Officials outline plan for rail crossing at new EHS entrance

ELLSWORTH — A public hearing on a rail crossing at the planned new entrance to Ellsworth High School was over almost as soon as it started Tuesday night.

The hearing began at 6 p.m. and was over 14 minutes later. Almost all of that time was taken up by various public officials explaining how the hearing would operate and what the project entails.

The city is planning to build a new entrance road to the high school next year, creating a four-way intersection where State Street and Forrest Avenue intersect. The new road, referred to in plans as Forrest Avenue extension, will lead from State Street to the high school and will require a new rail crossing.

The existing entrance to EHS will be modified to only allow foot traffic across the rail line for students going back and forth from athletic fields on the other side of the tracks.

Cars will still be able to use that entrance to access those fields, too, but the rail crossing will be blocked to vehicular traffic by a gate that can only be opened for first responders in the event of an emergency.

The city is timing construction of the new high school entrance road with the state’s plan to rebuild the section of State Street from roughly the Mill Mall to Ellsworth Falls. Having the two separate projects done at the same time will avoid having the same stretch of road torn up twice, according to City Manager David Cole.

Nate Moulton, director of Maine Department of Transportation’s rail program, said DOT workers and Downeast Scenic Railroad volunteers will put in the required rails, ties and rubber seals for the new crossing, while getting the signals put in will be the city’s responsibility.

Once all of the infrastructure is installed, Downeast Scenic Railroad will be responsible for the maintenance of both the crossing and the signals. Gary Briggs, vice president of the rail line’s parent organization, said his group is in support of the plan and design for the new rail crossing.

Because of the crossing’s proximity to the school, federal funds are available to help defray the city’s cost. The city earlier this fall pegged the total cost of the rail crossing project at $220,000 to $230,000, with 90 percent of the cost being covered by the DOT and federal dollars and the remaining 10 percent being borne by the city.

The only member of the public to attend the hearing was Bob Jancewicz from EBS Building Supplies. He asked if the rail crossing and new entrance to the high school were separate from the rebuild of State Street. Cole said even though they are set to take place at the same time they are separate projects.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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