2014-03-21 / Front Page

Construction ahead

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council on March 17 awarded two construction bids that will launch a multi-year sewer upgrade project in Thornton Heights and Pleansantdale that will eventually lead to a reconfiguration of Route 1 through the city.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, the intent is to replicate the success of the 2012 rebuild of Ocean Street in the downtown Knightville district, once again taking advantage of work below street level to refurbish the look and feel of what can be seen above ground. In the case of Main Street, he said, the idea is to turn back the clock to a time before the advent of the automobile economy, when Thornton Heights — or Skunk Hill, as it was then known — was a thriving, selfsufficient community.

The first year of work, set to begin Tuesday, April 15, will focus on sewer lines in the 30-acre area between Main Street and the Maine Central rail line. Phase 2 the following year will move across Main Street to rebuild sewer lines in the 18-acre area that surrounds Hertford Avenue, bordering Memorial Middle School. The third year of the project will involve sewer work in the 26 acres between Main Street and the middle school borderlands rebuilt the previous year, as well as the Main Street makeover. New detention ponds will be built on Sunset Avenue and in a field near the middle school.

When Main Street is rebuilt, the current vision calls for the road to remain much as it is now, between Westbrook Street and Aspen Avenue, with two lanes of traffic in either direction. However, both sides of the road will be improved with a new 7-foot-wide sidewalk and a 4-foot-wide bike lane.

From Aspen Avenue to Southwell Avenue, the road will narrow to two 11-footwide travel lanes, one in either direction. The bike lanes will be expanded to 5-feet wide and a landscaped esplanade, complete with LED street lighting, will be added in between the bike lane and the sidewalk. In addition, on-street parking will be created with a 10-foot wide strip on the eastern side of the road.

Finally, from Southwell Avenue to Mardale Avenue, traffic will split as the 10-foot parking lane disappears, replaced by a 10-foot wide landscaped median. That work, said Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings, is expected to create a neighborhood feel that, it is hoped, will revitalize the area.

Gorham Sand and Gavel of Buxton submitted the low $2.2 million bid for Phase I work that will run through Nov. 15.

That work includes installation of a new separated storm drain system on Main, Mclean, Tremont, Union and Wilson streets, as well as on Broadway and Gerry, Grandview and Sunset Avenue. New sanitary sewers will be built on Carignan Avenue, as well as on Gerry, Wilson, Tremont and Sunset. Additional work will include pavement removal, shimming and re-paving along with the installation of new “slip form” concrete curbing and bituminous sidewalks.

Further work will include the construction of a 2-acre multi-cell subsurface stormwater detention basin along with new water mains — replacing some reported to be more than a century old — by the Portland Water District, on Main and Tremont Streets and on Carignan and Gerry Avenue.

The water district’s work is incorporated into a single construction contract between Gorham Sand and Gravel and the city of South Portland.

The city council also awarded a $61,292 bid to Keenan Excavating Co. of South Portland to adjust 100 of 2,700 manhole casings across the city, including in the construction area.

“This could not come any sooner. Those who live in that area are in dire need,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher, referring to reported water and even sewer back ups in residential basements over the past several years.

“It’s not often we hear about neighbors being excited about having their streets torn up and work going on all summer long, but in this case they are,” agreed Councilor Linda Cohen.

The city has initially planned to use a vacant lot at the corner of Routes 1 and 9 as a staging area for construction crews. However, talks are now underway to lease that site to Cafua Management, a Massachusetts-based developer of Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants. In June, Cafua finalized the purchase of the former St. John’s Church on Main Street as a possible location, raising a vocal neighborhood protest.

“We’re working through all the fine particulars (of the lease) at this point, said Gailey on Tuesday. “We’re hoping that we’re looking good and not far away on this.”

Brad Weeks, senior engineer for South Portland’s Department of Water Resource Protection, who has been coordinating with 15 state and local entities to bring the Thornton Heights project to fruition, said a meeting Monday with contractors should settle a location for the staging area.

Weeks also addressed council concern that, in each case, only four firms of more than 50 solicited actually placed bids on the projects.

“In reality, there are only about six contractors in the state with the ability to do a project like this,” he said. “We got four of them to bid on this, so in that sense we did tremendous.”

Return to top