City looks to continue work on downtown improvement projects, rail trail in the new year
Belfast — With the arrival of the new year, the city has a number of projects it will continue to work on in 2014.
One of the projects the city is looking at is the conversion of a portion of the rail corridor it owns to a recreational trail. Belfast purchased a 3.5-mile rail corridor, which extends from the edge of the Penobscot McCrum property to the Waldo line, in 2010 for $200,000 with the intent of converting at least a portion of it to a recreational trail, according to previously published reports.
The city would hire a salvage company to come in and remove the existing rail and ties and would construct the trail, which city officials have indicated would most likely be a 10-foot wide stone dust path funded in part through the value of the salvaged steel rail. The path would extend from the edge of the Penobscot McCrum property out to Oak Hill Road.
As part of the project, the city worked with Brooks Preservation Society to acquire easements at City Point Station for the construction of parking spaces and restrooms. The city would pay Brooks Preservation Society $5,000 a year over a 15 year period for the easements.
Finally, to help finance the cost of construction the rail trail and the amenities at City Point, the city is partnering with Coastal Mountains Land Trust, which has launched a fundraising campaign to solicit donations for the recreational trail.
Front Street rebuild
One of the larger projects the city is looking to tackle is the rebuild of Front Street, which is estimated to cost as much as $3.8 million.
Initial plans for the project call for realigning and reconstructing Front Street; replacing and/or upgrading water and sewer lines; drop crossing electrical lines; constructing on-street parking; installing new lighting; and constructing sidewalks.
The city is also looking at purchasing a piece of property at the intersection of Pierce Street and Front Street. If the property is successfully acquired, it would allow the city to make improvements to the intersection to improve traffic flow and safety.
About half of the project costs could be paid for through a $1.9 million United States Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration grant. The city is hoping to find out whether it will receive the money later this month.
The Belfast Water District would also contribute $630,000 to pay for the upgrades or replacements to the lines along Front Street. That money in addition to the grant would mean the city would have to pay about $1.27 million to cover the remaining cost of the project.
According to previously published reports, the city would need to replace existing clay sewer lines that are more than 40 years old. These are common sources of leakage and prone to cracking. The engineering firm Olver Associates recommended replacing the lines with heavy duty PVC and installing new concrete manholes.
The manholes may need to be reinforced or paved over along the routes that are used by the Front Street Shipyard.
In addition, the city would replace the existing water main and install catch basins and storm collection pipes, with an under-drain system for the road sub-base, which will help extend the longevity of the road.
Other improvements include removing the existing pavement and gravel and installing a new sub-base, base gravels and pavement. The budget for the work includes the use of a reinforcing fabric and six inches of pavement along the 1,500 linear feet where overweight boat traffic is expected.
City Planner Wayne Marshall has previously indicated the reconstruction would not begin until 2015 as the city continues to fine-tune its plans.
Downtown Revitalization project
The city is looking to make significant improvements to a portion of the downtown area this spring. In 2012, the city received a $500,000 grant to to make improvements to a portion of the downtown that is bordered by Main Street, Front Street, Cross Street, and Belfast Common.
According to previously published reports, the goal of the improvements is to increase the connectivity between the downtown and Belfast Common by adjusting traffic flow along Cross Street and installing a focal point at the entrance into Belfast Common that would be visible from Main Street in order to attract pedestrians to the area.
In addition, the city would also create additional parking spaces on Cross, Miller and Spring streets. Project Administrator Ron Harriman estimated the project would create about 40 parking spaces.
Some of the key proposals of the project would include changing Cross Street to one-way traffic from the southern edge of the public parking lot to the intersection of Spring Street. The street would continue to accommodate two-way traffic between Main Street and the public parking lot, according to previously published reports.
Other improvements include the construction of roughly 1,400 linear feet of crosswalks and sidewalks, the installation of pedestrian-scale lighting, and updating and redesigning utilities and drainage, according to previous reports.
Once councilors approve a final design for the project, construction could begin as early as the spring of this year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect amount that Belfast would pay to the Brooks Preservation Society for an easement.