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Maine DOT calls off $45M in projects, including in County, as costs surge

The Maine Department of Transportation has called off more than $45 million in roadwork that it planned to advertise to construction firms this year.

Among the projects the department is putting off are the replacement of interstate highway overpasses in Bangor and Brewer, the reconstruction of about 3 miles of Route 1 in Van Buren, and a bridge replacement in Fort Kent.

The department said Thursday that most of the 11 projects on the list will be completed in future years, but that there’s no guarantee the work will happen.

“Prudent fiscal management requires us to make this revision,” the department said in a statement released Thursday. “We cannot pay the prices we have been seeing.”

The cancellations come as the state is receiving unexpectedly high cost estimates from construction firms bidding for state roadwork. Already this year, the department has rejected four bids for separate projects — in the Bangor and Portland areas and Rockland —  after quotes from interested construction firms exceeded the Department of Transportation’s project cost estimates by at least 60 percent.

“Every project in Maine DOT’s plan represents needed work; there are no easy choices,” the department said in its statement.

Work in Van Buren and Fort Kent are among the 11 infrastructure projects the Maine Department of Transportation is calling off this year.

In Van Buren, the DOT was to completely reconstruct 2.7 miles of Route 1 at a projected cost of $7.9 million. The road reconstruction, which would have encompassed a stretch of road that begins in an area commonly referred to as Keegan and heads toward downtown Van Buren, was to be put out to bid in the fall and expected to begin next summer.

“We just happen to be one of the projects they didn’t feel they could fund,” Van Buren Town Manager Nancy Troeger said Friday. “The plan was a complete upgrade (of that stretch of Route 1) so there are members of the community who are not happy they are not getting a new road.”

She added that “we’re not the only town that has rough roads. We’ll do as well as we always have.”

The DOT also scrapped replacement of the Perley Brook Bridge, which is located on Market Street about a block north of South Perley Brook Road in Fort Kent. That project was anticipated to cost $2.2 million.

Even though the department hadn’t yet advertised the work to construction firms, transportation officials said they removed projects that were similar to ones for which they had received unexpectedly high bids. They also considered the priority of the work, impact on safety and drivers and the condition of the existing infrastructure.

A shortage of available workers is a primary cause of the surging construction prices, the department said based on conversations with construction firms.

Other infrastructure projects the DOT called off Thursday are:

— Bangor – Ohio Street, I-95 Bridge – planned $6.2M

— Brewer – Wilson Street, I-395 Bridge – planned $11.9M

— Portland: India Street resurfacing, estimated at $400,000

— Abbot: 3 miles of Route 6 reconstruction, $7.1 million

— Waterville: 1.3 miles of Trafton Road rehabilitation, $3.7 million

— Hampden: replacement of Twin Bridge over Souadabscook Stream, $1.3 million

— Auburn: replacement of Taylor Brook Bridge, $1.7 million

— Belfast: replacement of Sheldon Bridge, $700,000

— Belfast: replacement of Goose River Bridge, $2.4 million

Writer Jessica Potila of the St. John Valley Times contributed to this report.

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