Seasonal road repairs spring up

On Tuesday, heavy equipment, owned by R.N. Willey and Sons, makes improvements on an unpaved public easement in Casco. (De Busk Photo)

On Tuesday, heavy equipment, owned by R.N. Willey and Sons, makes improvements on an unpaved public easement in Casco. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

The snow melts. The earth thaws. Rain moves in for a while. Some gravel roads revert to a snarl of potholes.

Susceptible to frost heaves, some stretches of pavement bubble up and test vehicles’ suspension systems.

This is nothing new.

“That’s springtime in Maine. The roads have potholes this time of year. The road where I live is as rough as a cob,” said Casco Town Manager and Road Commissioner Dave Morton.

In Casco, the company R.N. Willey and Sons is contracted with the town to take care of maintaining 47 miles of public easements. This week, the R.N. Willey crew has been filling the potholes on several of those gravel roads.

In April, the Casco Board of Selectmen reviewed a computer program that aids in keeping an ongoing inventory of road conditions, and tracking which roads most warrant repair work. That computer software has not yet been purchased.

However, local elected officials do not need to consult a computer to figure out which roads to focus on first.

This summer, Libby Road has dibs on road improvements including culvert and drainage work. The selectmen specifically earmarked funding for Libby Road, and moved $10,000 from the paving account to fast track the project.

“The reasons are multiple. It needs attention; the town has already invested in part of road; and there are a lot of people who live off Libby Road,” Morton said.

In addition, Point Sebago Road will be re-aligned and rebuilt this summer.

All towns have annual paving accounts and road repair budgets that try to keep up with the constant atrophy.

Springtime road maintenance comes on the heels of a wicked winter that kept plow crews busy dealing with snow and ice.

According to Harrison Town Manager Bud Finch, this cycle is to be expected.

“As I have noted over the past few meetings, this has been a tough year for some of our departments. Public works has experienced a long winter and now is about to face a shortened spring cleanup time frame. I realize it is the fact of life for those of us on the 45th parallel, where we live with the true four seasons of the year. But it doesn’t make it easier when the seasons overlap into each other,” Finch said during an April 5 workshop.

“We are into the mud and heavy load posting time of the season and are dealing with the problems that come with the unpaved roads. The weather will determine how long this particular phenomenon lasts, as it does each year,” he said.

“Transition from winter equipment to summer equipment has begun and will continue as spring clean-up and summer maintenance becomes a reality,” he said.

According to the Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine, over the past few years the town has upgraded several of the roads that gave drivers the most difficulty during spring breakup. In recent years, the town rebuilt Chaplin Mills Road, Pearly Road, Walter Hill and King Hill roads, and Burnell Road,

“I’ve had minimal pot holes this spring. Our roads are in good condition,” Goodine said.

‘I’ve got a culvert on Lewis Road that is starting to wash out,” he said, adding the culvert appears to have a hole in it.

“I have three areas around town — including along Cooks Mills Road — that I am hoping to dig up this summer, and find out why they do what they do. I want to figure out a way to stop the frost heaves,” Goodine said.

“People believe there is a lot of clay in the road, and that is creating the heaving. Clay captures the moisture. Either way, those sections definitely have frost heaves,” he said.

Naples has fewer public easements than Casco does.

“If we did that many public easements, it would quadruple our budget,” Goodine said.

One way towns protect roads during late winter and early spring is to post heavy load limits. This deters the traffic that could do the most damage.

“On the gravel roads, I take my cue from other road commissioners on when to start pulling those heavy load limits. We don’t lock into a date to pull load limits,” he said.

Casco Code Enforcement Officer Don Murphy said all Casco’s roads have been un-posted, with the exception of Libby Road, which should have heavy load limits lifted by Friday.

Also this spring, with the local budget planning process occurring and a decrease in state revenue sharing, it is uncertain how far paving funds will go and which repair project will be put on hold.

Naples Board of Selectman Christine Powers, who also serves in the State House of Representatives, has said she would like to champion Route 11 improvements. Powers sits on the House Transportation Committee.

On April 8, she said the first step was to finalize the state budget before pushing for Route 11 funding.

Morton does not think that Route 11 upgrades are likely in the near future.

“We have asked for a number of years that the state consider Route 11 as a high priority. But, it hasn’t risen to the top of the list,” he said.

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) would shoulder the costs of revamping Route 11, also known as Poland Springs Road, he said. But, MDOT has so many projects and so many needs.

“They have stretches of highway like Route 11 all over the state,” Morton said.

 

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