WISCASSET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After decades of debate, a plan has finally been chosen for a Route 1 bypass around Wiscasset.
The backups of summertime traffic there have become legendary - sometimes stretching for two miles in either direction. But people in Wiscasset and neighboring towns have never been able to agree on the best route for a bypass, and some still argue there isn't a need for a new road at all.
Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made the decision for them. The Corps has ruled it will only support what's called the "long bridge route" for a bypass. That is a 3.2 mile bypass that includes a new, long bridge across the Sheepscot River from Wiscasset to Edgecomb.
The Maine DOT says this is an important step, because the Army Corps is the primary environmental review for the proposed project. The MDOT had also been considering two other possible routes, but they are now off the table.
However, don't look for construction to start any time soon.
The MDOT still needs to secure final project approval from the Federal Highway Administration, and that process includes a plan for how to pay for the bypass. The MDOT estimates the final project will cost between $85 and $100 million. Most of that money will come out of federal highway funds provided to the state, but an estimated twenty percent will be paid by Maine.
The bypass will also require the state to take private properties. The exact number isn't certain yet, but the state is estimating 30 to 50 individual owners will lose at least a portion of their property. MDOT Chief of Planning Kat Beaudoin says that will include some homes and businesses.
To provide more detail on property impact, survey crews will begin working in Wiscasset in the next few weeks to lay out the proposed bypass "corridor". Up to now the agency says most of the planning work has been done with maps, satellite photos and computers. Putting marks on the ground will show them exactly where property lines are located, Then engineers and planners will determine specifically where the 60-foot wide roadway should go.
The MDOT says once that work is done they will have a much better idea of the precise impact on particular property owners, and the agency can start negotiating for purchase of the needed land.
Despite all this work, however, they say construction of a bypass is still likely to be ten years in the future, and possibly more.