Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 24, 2013
Work on Deer Isle causeway shelved until funded by state
by Jessica Brophy
A meeting held a year ago this month asked what, if anything, should be done to improve the safety of the causeway connecting Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle. While the Maine Department of Transportation did put together a plan for improvements to the causeway and put it on the list of needed projects, funding from the state did not follow, and is likely several years away.
Last year’s meeting was well attended, and MDOT officials left with a wide range of input from area residents. Those suggestions ranged from removing the rocks on either side of the causeway and replacing with guardrails, to putting measures in place to prevent speeding, to raising the height of the causeway to combat global warming, to establishing culverts to allow water flow from one side to the other of the causeway.
Those ideas, and more, were taken under consideration by the MDOT, and a plan put together for potential renovations. The plan was very basic, according to state Representative Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle). It included getting rid of the rocks now lining the causeway and replacing with a guardrail, and adding some paving to the turns on the causeway to widen them slightly. The estimated cost was $350,000. Kumiega said the MDOT did not suggest a larger-scale renovation, as it was deemed too expensive.
The plan put forth by the MDOT was not funded in the biennial MDOT budget approved by the Legislature early this year, said Kumiega. “It’s on the list as a district priority, but it didn’t score high enough to receive funding,” said Kumiega in a recent phone interview. Each MDOT district puts forth projects, which are then evaluated on a statewide basis in a cost-benefit analysis. Namely, how expensive is the project and how many serious accidents can be avoided by the improvements.
“While we’ve had some bad accidents over the years, it’s a matter of numbers,” said Kumiega. He pointed out that the roundabout project in Blue Hill cost a similar amount, and addressed an intersection where there were many more accidents.