Transportation Commissioner tours Piscataquis CountyAugust 03, 2006 - TRC The meshing of economic development plans and transportation needs in Piscataquis County got a closer look last week. Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Cole and MDOT Land Use Planning Specialist Fred Michaud spent July 19 meeting with town managers throughout the region. The day-long tour was coordinated by the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, who issued the invitation to Commissioner Cole earlier this year. “As I met with our various town managers and learned more about their downtown revitalization plans, I could see that close cooperation with the Department of Transportation would be necessary,” said PCEDC Community Development Specialist Sheila Grant. “We were extremely pleased that the commissioner was willing to set aside an entire day to focus on the needs of Piscataquis County. The meetings went very well and were very productive.” Cole, Michaud and Grant met first with Milo Town Manager Jane Jones and Tim Gormley of the Milo Water District. A major concern has been the MDOT timeframe for work on Elm Street, which the town hoped to coordinate with sewer line improvements in that neighborhood. Jones said that $600,000 in funding from USDA Rural Development for sewer work is at risk because it must be expended by August 1, 2007 or returned to the funding organization. Commissioner Cole said that he would be happy to call USDA Rural Development State Director Michael Aube to discuss ways the two projects might be coordinated to ensure that the town not lose its Rural Development funding. The town also expressed concerns about the condition of the Pleasant River Bridge, which has deteriorating concrete and some exposed rebar. Michaud followed up by discussing the bridge with MDOT Assistant Bridge Maintenance Engineer John Buxton, who indicated that an inspection of the bridge was conducted this spring, at which time it was determined to be structurally sound to meet current traffic demands. A $280,000 congressional earmark has been set aside for turning lanes at the Eastern Piscataquis Industrial Park in Milo and at Pleasant River Lumber. Jones told Cole that she felt the priority should be on the Pleasant River site, as the mill currently provides jobs for Milo residents and others throughout the region, while the industrial park is not yet constructed. Cole and Michaud felt that if the Pleasant River project used most of the earmark monies, other funding might be available later to complete the Milo traffic lane. They planned to check into potential funding sources. In Dover-Foxcroft, Town Manager Jack Clukey urged MDOT to keep improvements to Route 7 a high priority, as this project is closely linked to their Downtown Revitalization Plan. Asked about the chances of Dover-Foxcroft getting Gateway funding for welcome signs, Cole offered to look into why the town’s application was not approved last time and what the outlook for future funding might be. They also toured Harrison Avenue, where Clukey is interested in obtaining MDOT “Safe Routes to School” grant funding to install a sidewalk. In Guilford, Town Manager Tom Goulette expressed appreciation for MDOT’s assistance in coordinating projects in the recent past. Goulette did ask that MDOT take a closer look at the intersection of Route 16 with Sebec Shore Road, as he had received complaints that the turn radius seemed too tight and about the catch basin there. Michaud said concerns are somewhat premature as the work at that intersection is not yet complete, but planned to review the design to be certain the intersection would be in good shape at completion. Monson Town Manager Robert Nicholson and Public Works Director Brian Turner expressed concern about a passing zone in front of the town beach. After a drive past the beach, Cole and Michaud agreed that this might not be the best place for a passing zone, and noted that there is another opportunity for traffic to pass just up the road. They plan to discuss the issue with MDOT Traffic Engineer Victor Smith. At the top of Greenville Town Manager John Simko’s list was concern that the recent reallocation of MDOT road crews and resources did not provide appropriate coverage and response time to his region. Cole planned to arrange a discussion between himself, Simko and MDOT Director of Maintenance and Operations David Bernhardt in the near future to ensure that the most appropriate coverage and crew locations to serve the region are in place. Simko also explained the town’s efforts to make improvements at the Junction Wharf and asked if there was a way that MDOT could partner in this project. The town hopes to replace the rotting timbers at the wharf with wood composite material that will last years longer. Since the material has never been used in this environment, (but is successfully used in coastal settings) this might be considered a pilot project and quality for some demonstration funding, Cole said. He will look into that possibility and get back to Simko with any results. With the Piscataquis Tourism Task Force eyeing the old MDOT garage in Shirley as a moose-watching destination, Simko expressed concern about the increased odds of accidents. Michaud plans to research crash data at the site and to see if a turnout may be needed to accommodate motorists who wish to stop and watch the moose feeding in the bog. Submitted by : Sheila Grant, PCEDCNOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.