ELLSWORTH — Work has started on a new entrance to Ellsworth High School, though it will not be completed until later this fall at the earliest.
That means traffic on State Street, already slowed by the ongoing roadwork, will likely be particularly hectic in the early weeks of school. Freshmen start Thursday at EHS and grades 10-12 return on Friday.
“Certainly, there are going to be some [traffic] delays,” said Superintendent Dan Higgins this week. He said it is a reality of Maine life that road construction happens in the warmer months, and said he thinks crews working on State Street have done a good job keeping traffic moving as best they can.
The traffic light at the intersection of State Street and the entrance to the high school, which has been flashing yellow for State Street traffic and flashing red for cars leaving the high school since roadwork started, was returned to its normal cycle this week in order to address the uptick in traffic through the intersection as school resumes.
R.F. Jordan & Sons, which is already the contractor for the State Street work, also received the contract for the new entrance to the high school (referred to in planning documents as Forrest Avenue Extension). The Ellsworth company’s bid of $777,100 was the lowest of three submitted.
The new entrance will require a new, fully signalized rail crossing. That work entails a separate bidding process, and bids are due back for that project by Sept. 14.
While the city bears the full cost of creating the new road to the high school, the cost of the rail crossing will be borne largely by the federal government.
The city last 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 Maine Department of Transportation (through federal funding) and the remaining 10 percent being borne by the city.
The city’s goal is to have the Forrest Avenue Extension project “substantially completed” by the time snow arrives later this year. A final coat of paving will need to be put down in the spring.
The current entrance to EHS will remain in use until the new entrance is ready for use. Once the new entrance opens, the existing entrance will be used only for access to the athletic fields and tennis courts between State Street and the railroad tracks.
A gate will be placed at that crossing to allow access for emergency vehicles.
The traffic light currently in place at the entrance to the high school will be moved to the new, four-way intersection of Forrest Avenue and State Street once the new entrance is ready.