SEARSPORT — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, joined town officials and members of Maine Department of Transportation Friday to discuss two high-priority projects that have been on the books for over a decade.

A plan to rebuild the downtown section of Route 1, according to Collins, is the last remaining section of the thoroughfare in the Midcoast not built to modern standards. Collins requested $9.2 million for the project to address deficiencies in safety, mobility, pavement structure, pedestrian and bicycle access, ADA compliance and parking.

Searsport Selectman Doug Norman tours downtown with Sen. Susan Collins July 16. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

“The vision,” she said, “is beautiful,” after reviewing plans at the Searsport Town Office.

The second project is the maintenance dredging of the Port of Searsport. Collins requested $1.65 million to fund the project, which has been postponed for more than 12 years.

While touring Mack Point, Collins met with Sprague Energy officials, who said the last time  dredging occurred was in 1964, when the channel was built. Officials would like to bring back the 35-foot depth which, they said, was part of the original design. “It’s a safety issue,” one official said. “That’s why dredging needs to be done.”

Currently, large vessels can only use the channel at high tide, which can add time to the unloading operation, which in turn adds costs associated with the delay. “Without the dredging,” officials said, “we could lose four or five days.”

The busy port receives a variety of products, from wood pulp to seaweed, as well as recycled metal, home heating oil and large windmill parts. “The port is really important,” Collins said. The terminal is vital to Maine’s economy, and dredging the port will reduce shipping delays as well as enhancing safety, she said.

Sen. Susan Collins speaks with officials from Sprague Energy at Mack Point terminal in Searsport July 16. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

 

 

 

 

While funding for the two projects is not a done deal and there are many other projects in the mix, Collins said the fact that she is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee “gives us a leg up.”

Searsport Town Manager James Gillway said, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Searsport to advance both projects, which have been in the works for the past 15 years. Improving our infrastructure is really important.”  Right now, he said, the condition of Route 1 is hard on the traveling public.

President and CEO of Sprague Energy David Glendon offers Sen. Collins a gift after visiting operations at Mack Point July 16. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

The dredging project, he said, will ultimately be safer for ships and also for the environment.

When asked about a timeline, Gillway said a lot depends on funding. The town is planning to put the projects out to bid by February 2022.