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MDOT rep: Route 124 needs work
HEBRON — Maine Department of Transportation Representative Mark Hume attended the June 23 selectboard meeting to discuss with selectmen the work that needs to be done on Route 124. Some residents believe the roadwork is way overdue.
"I gotta be honest with you," Hume told the selectmen, "there are a lot of other roads that are in a lot worse shape. I'm pretty happy with that, for not being paved in six years."
He did, however, agree that there are certain spots that are "pretty bad."
Hume explained to the board what work is already taking place on the road and what additional work needs to be done to improve its poor condition.
He said the first thing DOT did was determine the road's classification. According to Hume, Route 124 is what DOT calls a "state aid minor collector."
Hume said "state aid" means that the state provides aid in the form of summer paving maintenance. He said Route 124 gets paved about once every seven years.
"That's the function we do," Hume told the board. "We'll do the cross culverts, we'll do some ditching, we'll do patching. If a tree falls over, we will come cut it up and take it away."
Hume believes the road was paved six years ago – "So it's due to be paved next year," he told selectmen. "It's on the schedule."
The "minor collector" part, he said, means that the road is not eligible for federal funds. "It doesn't meet a high enough classification that the feds will allow us to spend money on it," he said.
Hume said traffic volumes on state state aid minor collector roads are relatively low – the roads typically connect two smaller towns but aren't major commuter or freight routes.
Fixing the road
Hume said determining the road's classification – which is based off of traffic count and what the road is used for – is the first step in fixing the road.
He said there are six different criteria that the road must meet. Then it is compared to the roads around it to determine its level of priority, he said.
According to Hume, DOT offers a town-led program – the Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) – which is a creative method to develop, fund and build projects of municipal interest on the state infrastructure system with DOT as a partner.
He said that when a municipality indicates interest in making an eligible improvement or expanding the scope of an existing DOT project, the request is forwarded to the DOT Regional Office for action. The Region Engineer then meets with the town to scope out the project.
Hume said there are certain requirements road projects must meet in order to be eligible for MPI grant funding.
For instance, roads must be "professional engineer certified" – designed by a Maine licensed engineer who certifies the project was done to specifications – as well as have a 10-year design life, public involvement and be a betterment to the state transportation system, said Hume.
In addition, Hume said project selection is also based on safety, economic development, job creation and percentage of a local match.
"The more money the towns put in, the higher likelihood of getting approved for funding," he said.
For the FY 2012-2013 biennium, Hume said DOT had about $7 million in MPI that has already been spent and now "some projects are on a waiting list for next year."
Selectman Jim Reid, who lives on the road, asked Hume the last time a traffic count was done on Route 124. Reid said he sees a lot of traffic on the road.
"I think that traffic is incredible," he told Hume.
"They are usually done every two years," Hume answered, "I don't have the latest ... but that's something I can get for you."
Randy Campbell, who has lived on Route 124 (also known as Buckfield Road) for 39 years, agreed with Reid.
"When I was a kid, I could probably count the number of cars on one hand during the day," he said, "and now, it's just unbelievable – the truck traffic especially."
Hume said that if he had to guess, approximately 2,000 vehicles travel Route 124 everyday.
In poor condition
Selectman Dan Eichorn said one of the concerns is that the crowning in the road is making it difficult to plow.
While Eichorn said he realizes that repaving the road will take care of the issue, he asked Hume whether the road needs to be completely rebuilt in order to prevent further crowning three to four years down the road.
Campbell said he hasn't seen a grader on the road in years.
"I think it should be at least looked at every couple years," said Campbell. "I've got a massive rut that's probably a foot deep off the edge of the pavement. If I hadn't gone out there and physically dug into the ditch, it would have washed my driveway out."
Hume said DOT could increase the depth of the road on the outside edges. Eichorn argued that, considering the road is crowning, the town has to put a lot more money into keeping it clean in the winter.
He also pointed out that, since the town is not responsible for summer maintenance, it can't take steps to fix it. Therefore, DOT must step in.
State Representative Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, who also represents Minot and Hebron, attended the meeting and suggested DOT reevaluate the road.
He said the study would determine whether the road still qualifies as a "minor collector." He also suggested the town get a grader on the road.
Hume agreed, telling the board it can submit a letter to DOT requesting a classification study be done.
"Until we get that," said Timberlake,"we really don't know where we can go from there."
Selectmen agreed to request a classification study.
Timberlake said that the study should take three to four weeks to complete.
"It's just going to take us a year to get it all back on track," he said. "But we're getting there."