Update on Route 15 projects yields mixed news

BLUE HILL — The Maine Department of Transportation met with residents, selectmen and municipal officials Tuesday to provide an update on the status of the department’s Route 15 projects.

The news was mixed.

A project to rebuild a portion of Route 15 through Orland and Penobscot will be wrapped up for the winter in the next week, said Region Four Project Manager Randy Barrows.

Barrows said the DOT was 800 feet short of excavating what had been planned to be done this year on the stretch. That project will begin again in the spring and should be finished in June, he said.

“But there was a lot of good progress made,” he added.

In other news, the DOT plans to rebuild the Mines Road portion of Route 15, which connects Blue Hill and Sedgwick, in 2017 or 2018, according to Scott Rollins, assistant director of the DOT’s Bureau of Planning.

Meanwhile, the DOT’s plan for work on Deer Isle-Stonington’s portion of Route 15, which is riddled with potholes and frost heave-like bumps year-round, is minimal.

Rollins said the DOT would do light paving, but there would be no rebuilding of any of the island road.

“It’s bad down there, it really is,” said Deer Isle resident Mary Offutt. “Have either of you driven it during frost heave season?”

Offutt said she volunteered with the ambulance service for 18 years. Transporting a patient with a broken hip over Route 15 is difficult, she said.

“We’ll do a light capital paving,” Rollins said. “That should certainly help.”

“But that’s kind of been the strategy that hasn’t helped the road,” Offutt said.

Rollins replied, “Unfortunately, as we’re developing our work plan, we’ve got needs that far outweigh our resources.”

The DOT spends money maintaining the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, too, Rollins said.

“If those fail, people die,” he said. “It’s a tough spot we’re in of doing the best we can with the money we have.”

Offutt asked, as did Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings, what road tests the DOT had done on Route 15 on the island.

Rollins said a vehicle called an “automatic road analyzer” travels over state roads collecting data about road conditions. Rollins will find out when the last time the vehicle was on the island or if it’s scheduled to go anytime soon.

“We might be reconstructing 10 to 20 miles yearly in the state” Rollins said. “Are we going to reconstruct in Stonington or are we going to reconstruct in Region Three, where we have five times the traffic?”

Seven residents attended the meeting, including Deer Isle Town Clerk and Administrative Assistant Rebekah Knowlton and Blue Hill Selectman Vaughn Leach.

Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz asked Rollins and Barrows to take a look at the Hinckley Ridge Road while in town.

“It’s in bad shape,” he said. “It can’t be plowed without a shim coat” of pavement.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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