Waterville City Council to vote on riverwalk and road projects

Continuing with Waterville’s plans of revitalizing the downtown area in partnership with Colby, City Councilors will consider awarding contracts for road projects and a riverwalk design for the Head of the Falls on March 15 at 7 P.M.

The road project in question would alter the  dangerous five-way intersection at First Rangeway and Western Avenue, and is expected  to cost a little over $200,000, which will come from state and federal funds.  The changes would permanently block off Western Avenue’s access to First Rangeway and add a road from Chase Avenue to Western Avenue.

According to City Manager Michael Roy, six companies have bid on the project. “This intersection has three times the normal crash rate for intersections, that’s why it was identified many years ago as a priority of the state and federal governments. The state came to useand said they think something should be done,” Roy said to The Morning Sentinel.

Airport Road would be repaved as part of the project, while Union Street would be either reclaimed, or ground up and replaced with new pavement. City Council is also planning on awarding a 2016 contract for pavement maintenance and a 2016 contract for street rehabilitation. They are also considering giving $50,000 surplus from the natural gas tax increment-financing program to complete roadwork.

Back in January, the city put out a  request for proposals for an engineering design of a public boardwalk at the Head of the Falls on the Kennebec River, asking firms to submit architectural and landscape designs for a river walk that will be built on open space to the North of Two Cent Bridge and Two Cent Plaza. Head of the Falls was once a mill and a small residential neighborhood, but was leveled in the 1960s. The city has continually encouraged investment in the area, even putting in electric, sewer and water lines for over $1 million, as well as asking residents for what they would like to see for the empty lot. The designs will be funded by $20,000 from a decade-old waterfront loan.

The preliminary walkway layout is a 900 foot concrete boardwalk on an existing foundation wall with lighting and a handrail riverside, and would also include art panelling, a gazebo or local art. Although there have been plans for a river walk for years, the project got a boost when the Waterville Rotary Club donated $150,000 and the Kennebec Messalonskee Trails also gave $15,000. The project is projected to cost roughly $400,000, but monetary support from Colby and Waterville Development Corp will make up the remaining balance.

Jamie Schwartz  ’18 told the Echo, “I am excited to hear that the city of Waterville is considering a river walk design for the Head of the Falls! The Falls are really beautiful, and deserve to play a more central role in Waterville’s future. As a Colby student, the prospect of being able to spend time near such a beautiful river and still be close to downtown is exciting.”

These new developments and investment into local infrastructure align with the partnership between Colby and the city to revitalize downtown Waterville.  The Kennebec River is one of the most beautiful rivers in Maine and is a popular destination for both fishing and whitewater rafting. Yet, the river currently plays a minimal role in Waterville life, and the public space near the Head of the Falls is rarely utilized. If plans come to fruition, the river walk will breathe new life into the Head of the Falls and entire area of downtown Waterville.

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