7.  TRANSPORTATION

 

 

The Role of  the Maine Department of Transportation

 

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is responsible for the planning, development and preservation of a multi-modal transportation system including highways and bridges, air transportation, ferry systems, transit systems and rail transportation.

 

MDOT’s investments in the transportation system are guided by the following

 

1.   Twenty-Year Plan.  MDOT’s Twenty Year Plan is a policy document that describes the current condition of the State’s transportation infrastructure, outlines some of the factors likely to affect performance, and describes the steps to be taken to meet broad goals for all modes of travel.

 

2.   Six-Tear Transportation Improvement Plan.  MDOT’s Six Year Plan provides a link between the Twenty-Year Plan, which is policy based, and the Biennial Transportation Improvement Program (BTIP), which is project based and fiscally limited.  The Six Year Plan provides municipalities with the opportunity to plan for anticipated improvements in a more timely manner than is allowed by the BTIP.  There is a reasonable expectation that projects listed in the Six-Year will be implemented within the next six years, subject to funding availability.  Projects listed in the six year plan which may be of interest to Westport include:

 

·        Airports – At the Wiscasset Airport, acquisition of land in the approaches. 

 

·        Passenger Marine Services – Continued work with Bath and Boothbay Harbor on the development of shoreside facilities for various marine services including high speed ferries, water taxis and cruise ships.

 

·        Park and Ride Lots – The identification of park and ride lots for prioritization by the Regional Transportation Advisory Committees (RTACs).

 

·        Rockland Branch – Rail improvements and stations for the Rockland Branch rail between Brunswick and Rockland to support passenger excursions and connectivity to the proposed AMTRAK service between Brunswick and Boston and the marine highway along the coast of Maine.

 

·        Feasibility Studies – Continued work by MDOT on a number of feasibility studies which may lead to projects scheduled for construction in future Six-Year plans.  Studies which may impact Westport include the Bath Westerly Access (feasibility of strategies to improve access to Bath and the Sagadahoc Bridge from points west), and the Wiscasset Route 1 Corridor (preliminary engineering and environmental studies of alternative to relieve U.S. Route 1 congestion and improve safety in the Wiscasset area).

·        Access Management – MDOT has drafted access management standards that potentially will significantly impact the nature of future development on State and State aid highways.

 

·        Rural Road Initiative – The Rural Road Initiative, enacted by the Legislature in 1999, creates a new framework for addressing improvement needs other than periodic resurfacing on minor collector roads such Route 144 in Westport. Under this program, the State provides two thirds of the funding cost while the municipality provides the remaining one-third.  Funding is awarded on a project-by-project basis, depending upon municipal interest.

 

3.            Biennial Transportation Improvement Program (BTIP) – The BTIP for specific projects for the FY 2002/03 biennium is based on the Six Year Plan.

 

4.            Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) – The Regional Transportation Advisory Committee for Region 5 advises MDOT on transportation policy issues.  Region 5 includes all of Knox and Lincoln Counties and portions of Waldo and Sagadahoc Counties.  It also includes several towns in Cumberland County.

 

Town Roads - Overview

           

State Route 144, which is classified by the MDOT as a minor collector, is the Town=s major traffic artery.  It connects Westport island to mainland Wiscasset by a two-lane bridge which crosses the Back River. Route 144 runs from the bridge south about nine miles down the length of the island. Road use on Westport Island is basically limited to Westport residents.  Westport is not a tourist attraction. Based on traffic count data obtained from the Maine Department of Transportation, the Average Annual Daily Traffic at the Westport/Wiscasset Town line increased between 1990 and 1995, then declined between 1995 and 1997, as shown below.

 

Table 1

Route 144 AADT at Westport/Wiscasset Town Line

1990

1992

1995

1996

1997

1140

1110

1630

1540

1470

 

The AADT on Route 144 was 550 just south of Fowles Point Road (1995 count) and 160 just south of East Shore Road (1997 count).

 

According to MDOT data, the island has approximately 5.88 miles of State Assisted road, and 19.52 miles of town roads, as shown in Table 2. Most of the latter are gravel.  Over the years, the gravel roads have been improved. The current road system allows access to summer homes and camps and to most parts of the island.  Fire lanes have been laid out and posted to cover the island. Considerable growth could take place without the need for more roads, but the need for improved roads and increased maintenance would result.  Several current subdivisions have their own road systems which connect to the island system.

 

Westport contracts for snow plowing of its own roads and state Route 144.  Private contractors plow the private roads.

 

The only real safety problem other than excessive speed is the "S" turn on Route 144 as it approaches the Westport Island bridge from Wiscasset.  According to MDOT data, within the past three years there have been nine accidents on Route 144 between Fowles Point Road and Greenleaf Cove.

 

Table 2

Town Road Mileage (MDOT data)

Name of Road

Mileage

Route 144

5.88 (State aid)

 

2.93 (Town)

Bayshore Road

.91

Bridge Hill Road

.25

Doggetts Road

.5

East Shore Road

2.09

Ferry Road

.20

Fowles Point Road

.97

Greenleaf Road

.83

Greenleaf Cove Road

.62

Harriman Road

.37

Junction Road

.71

Lord Road

.59

Mendes Road

.38

North End Road

1.31

Old Causeway Road

.05

Post Office Road

1.05

Sortwell Road

.76

West Shore Road

3.8

Willis Point Road

.70

?

.25

?

.25

Total

25.4

           

While traffic congestion is not a problem in Westport, the Town’s residents are impacted by summer traffic problems in Wiscasset. It is not uncommon to have traffic backed up on both lanes of Route 1 due to inability to get through Wiscasset's town center. The problem is well documented and the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is studying alternative, long-range solutions which at this time do not involve a bypass through any portion of Westport.

 

Road Conditions – Historical Perspective

 

Historically,  there were many sections of Westport roads where automobiles might be mired in the Spring of the year. To a great extent these problem areas have been corrected by excavating ditches to drain off water, and adding gravel to stabilize the road surface.

Prior to 1970, Route 144, maintained by the state, was the only fully paved road. This originally was a "tarred" or macadam pavement. Periodically, possibly every year, this was given another spray coating of tar and covered with sand, thus building up the thickness of paved surface. In the early 1970's, some of the Town's gravel roads were paved by a surface treatment of tar. This served to lessen the amount of grading required to maintain the traveled way. However, grading of shoulders was neglected.

 

From the early 1970’s to the 1990’s, no follow-up applications of tar and sand were made and, as the growth of weeds and brush and build up of sand accumulated on shoulders, poor drainage caused the hardened surfaces to break up in many areas. There were sections of paving where adequate gravel base and free drainage of water resulted in longer life of the surface pavement. In some areas an additional application of "hot top" or asphalt pavement was made and the road surface was retained. Other areas were left in broken condition or had gravel added and were thereafter treated as gravel roads. However the acknowledged necessity of frequent grading of gravel roads was not done.

 

Town Road Committee Report

 

In 1990, The Town of Westport voted to authorize a general survey of each Town road to determine its current general condition, to locate specific areas that cause continuing deterioration, and to estimate the cost for bringing each road to a reasonable standard condition with respect to "safety" and with respect to "ease of routine annual maintenance."  The Town of Westport requested this study so that it would have a valid reference for Town residents to use when they vote on appropriating future road budgets and when they vote on where and how these budgets should be allocated.

 

The result of this research was to firmly establish what Westport residents have long suspected:

 

1.                  Westport has a difficult geography for road construction and maintenance.

 

2.                  The size of the road budget, and the Town’s method of allocating funds, do not achieve a solution to the road problems. The small budget has been divided between all roads in an effort to be "fair," which has meant that no road received enough money to provide any lasting improvement.

 

The considered opinion of the Road Committee was that the Town should contract to have all roads improved to a condition ready to be paved, and then pave only the roads supported by town vote. This would sufficiently improve roads to the point where maintenance costs could be more accurately estimated for the Budget each year. The maintenance, prior to paving, would primarily be road grading, ditch cleaning, and culvert replacement. When roads are paved, the grading would be confined to just shoulders and ditch slopes.

 

 

 

 

 

The Paving Issue

 

For the year ending December 31, 2000, the Town received about $125,000 annually in excise taxes. From this, approximately $52,800 was spent for snow removal, $50,000 was set aside for tarring, and the rest was used for annual upkeep of the roads including gravel, spring grading, beaver control, culvert replacement and shoulder work.  The State highway subsidy, approximately $30,000 in 2000, is used for improvements or tarring projects.  It took the Town two years of saving tarring money and State highway subsidy money to pay for tarring 11,000 feet of the approximately three miles of Route 144 for which the Town is responsible.  The Town needs to complete approximately .4 of a mile of Route 144 to Harriman’s Point Road.

 

In recent years, Town tarring projects included the following:

 

·        1994

Haskell and Doggett Roads.  These roads received a shim coat but not a top coat and are now showing signs of breaking down.

·        1995

East Shore Road - north end

·        1996

Lord Road

·        1997

North End Road

·        1998

East Shore Road - south end and Post Office Road by Ron Harrison

            In 1998, the State tarred Route 144 from the bridge to just below the Tarbox Inn.

 

Tarred roads need to be resurfaced about every eight years.  Therefore, beginning in 2002, the Town needs to begin an eight-year pavement program in order to keep these roads from falling apart.  However, prior to beginning the program, the Town needs to spend approximately $194,000 to improve other tarred roads including the .4 of a mile of Route 144 ($53,000) and 2.6 miles of other currently tarred roads ($141,000) including:

 

Ferry Road

.2 mile

Greenleaf Road

.5 mile

West Shore Road

.7 mile of north end

West Shore Road

.7 mile of south end

Post Office Road

.4 mile from Newcombs to just past Jean Smith’s

Post Office Road

.1 mile near the radio tower

 

The Town will not be able to pay for these improvements and implement an eight-year paving program using only excise tax money and State highway subsidy money.  The Town will either have to borrow money or raise money through property taxes.

 

Private Roads

 

There are a number of private roads throughout the island.  The Town’s policy is that these roads should remain under private ownership.

 

 

 

 

Parking

 

Westport has no parking facilities to speak of other than the parking lot at the Town Office.  There does not appear to be a need for additional parking facilities because the Town has no commercial center.  The Squire Tarbox Inn has sufficient off road parking for its own purposes.

 

Air Transportation

 

Wiscasset Municipal Airport is the only public service airport between Portland and Rockland.  It does not provide scheduled commercial service, but serves as a general aviation airport for private aircraft.  The airport is located in Wiscasset on Chewonki Neck Road, just off Route 144, not far from the Westport bridge.  It is adjacent to the now-decommissioned Maine Yankee Nuclear Plant. Airport facilities include a 3,400-foot runway, two taxi-ways, fuel, hangars, a terminal building and lounge, and an aircraft maintenance facility.

 

There are 25 aircraft based at the airport (down from 40 ten years ago) including 24 single-engine planes and a jet. There were 20,000 take-offs and landings in 2000, down from 30,000 ten years ago.  Wicked Good Aviation is the only fixed-base operator at the airport.  It provides aircraft maintenance and fuel, but does not provide flight instruction or aircraft rental. 

 

Rail Transportation

 

The Maine Department of Transportation has been aggressive in purchasing abandoned railroad rights-of-way for possible future freight and passenger service.  MDOT has completed engineering and design work and has begun rehabilitation of the 50+ miles of rail corridor known as the Rockland Branch which runs between Brunswick and Rockland.  Rail improvements will be phased in over several years. Safe Handling currently leases the Rockland Branch from MDOT to transport products for Dragon Cement.

 

When improvements on the Rockland Branch are completed, this rail line will support passenger excursions, connectivity to the AMTRAK service between Brunswick and Boston and to the marine highway along the Maine coast.  MDOT is also looking at using the Rockland Branch for commuter rail service.  MDOT is negotiating to extend AMTRAK service to Brunswick.  Brunswick has purchased the former station site to support the return of passenger rail service. These developments suggest that passenger rail service may someday be reasonably convenient for Westport residents.

 

Public Transportation System

 

There is no public transportation in Westport.  The major public transportation services available to residents of Westport include Coastal Trans and Concord Trailways and Vermont Transit.

 

1.            Coastal Trans, Inc. (CTI).  Coastal Trans is a non-profit public transportation service subsidized by various levels of government available on a limited schedule to residents of Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties as well as the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell.  Coastal Trans’ mission is to provide non-emergency transportation services to the low income, elderly, disabled, and general population of its service area.  Currently, Coastal Trans provides door-to-door van service between Westport and Damariscotta/Newcastle Monday through Friday.  The majority of Coastal Trans’ clients are either clients of or receive financial support from the Maine Department of Human Services, but the service is also available to the general public. 

 

2.            Concord Trailways/Vermont Transit.  Concord Trailways currently offers daily trips to Portland, Boston and Logan Airport. Vermont Transit, headquartered in Brunswick, provides intercity bus service between the Midcoast area and areas outside Region 5.

 

Planning Considerations

 

1.         Road Paving.  The excise money and State highway subsidy money available to Westport are not sufficient to pay for needed road improvements and implement an eight-year highway road paving program.  The Town will either have to raise additional money or undertake fewer road improvements and/or let tarred roads deteriorate.

 

2.         Access Management. Westport may benefit in the long run from State-level access management controls along Route 1 because the proposed State rules may limit future congestion that would otherwise result from land development patterns. 

 

3.         Route 1.  Route 1 is the Town’s link to the outside world and as such, Town residents have a vested interest in congestion related studies in Wiscasset and Bath.