Town, state work toward Route 35 junction remedy

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — One remedy for the traffic congestion and problems for pedestrians at junction of Route 35 in Naples is for the state to cut a check and for the town to hire someone to do the work.

It’s as easy as that.

Selectman Rich Cebra reported on his most recent discussion with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) Commissioner.

Essentially, the state plans to handover to the town the surveying and engineering plans that were part of a possible extension of the Causeway reconstruction project. The state has already budgeted money for a new stoplight at the intersection of Route 35 and Roosevelt Trail. That upgrade includes marked crosswalks with safe landings on each corner, Cebra said.

MDOT’s offer was that the Town of Naples shoulders the rest of the responsibility: getting the cost estimates, coming up with the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money and hiring a contractor to do the work.

“If we want to get it quicker, we would figure out the cost and the TIF amount. The department would write us a check for their half and we could do it quicker,” he said.

Chairman Jim Grattelo asked, “If we do it, we hire the contractor.”

Cebra said yes that the town could hire the contractor while the MDOT would pay its half for the intersection improvements and give the town the existing blueprints. The state-approved project includes a new traffic signal with the button that pedestrians can push to change the traffic light and safety cross the road. Also included are the crosswalks with safe landings on each corner.

“Or we can do it the old-fashioned way and let the department take care of it, but later,” Cebra said.

Obviously, most of the MDOT crews are already doing routine road work or busy with road projects.

“With the summer, there’s no guarantee that they [MDOT] would do it until next summer. If we do it ourselves, we can do it sooner,” he said.

Then, Cebra introduced the idea of sidewalks, asking, “Do we want sidewalks on the Moose Landing [Marina] side?”

He described the sidewalks as high quality, not just blacktop.

There was some talk about the preference for granite curbing.

“Bridgton put focus on the granite curbs and it looks good,” Selectman Jim Turpin said.

Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said the board would determine the scale of the project and the price to do it. Then, since TIF funding would be used, a special town meeting would be required to get voter’s approval on allocating TIF funds in that direction

Bob Caron II had some issues with the sidewalks — or rather the lack of sidewalks south of Bray’s Brewpub & Eatery.

“The sidewalk goes up to Bray’s, one more place, and then it stops and it is dirt. Even if we don’t do sidewalks up to Moose Landing Marina, we should do something about where the sidewalk ends,” Caron said.

“They left it abandoned. There is no place to walk. You walk on something that’s not even a foot wide. A lot of people are walking on the south side of 302,” Caron concluded.

Chairman Grattelo said the sidewalks could be paid for through the paving budget.

Paraschak said “Yeah, you could probably stretch that. But, it can come out of TIF. When we sold the paving budget, it was sold as town roads. There was no discussion about state highway in town.”

Grattelo took the floor.

“A majority of people in town would want those sidewalks fixed. It’s not a hard sell,” Grattelo said.

Turpin took another viewpoint.

“Some people might be concerned about the priority. There are other sidewalks they’d rather have done,” Turpin said.

Cebra said the paid-for project is the new traffic lights, the crosswalks and the safe landing on each corner of the intersection.

Rogers asked why the board was talking about sidewalks and crosswalks and “not talking about putting in a turning lane that we need.”

Cebra assured Rogers that the middle lane or turning lane would be marked for drivers.

“There is the need for a crosswalk there. Anytime on the weekend, people are crossing [the roadways] all over the place,” Cebra said.

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