What to do about Old County Road
Almost everyone agrees much of Old County Road from Route 17 at Kalers Corner southwest to Limerock Street is in very poor (dare I say horrible?) condition. Likewise, almost everyone agrees that Old County is an important local transportation corridor. But, after those two critical points, general agreement about Old County (and how to fix it) seems to end.
Is Old County in bad shape because of the truck traffic? Or is it deteriorating because of poor drainage and a lack of maintenance paving by the City over the last 20 years? Is Old County primarily a Rockland bypass? Or, is Old County heavily used by Rockland residents as well as employees and customers of Rockland businesses? Should the state pay most of costs for repairs and improvements to the Old County? Or should the city of Rockland pay half?
What is wrong with Old County? Several engineers agree that the primary problem with Old County is very poor drainage that keeps water from flowing off of and away from the road. An asphalt road standing in water, especially when that water freezes, is easily broken up by vehicle traffic. A secondary issue is Old County was last repaved in 1987. Maintenance paving, which should be done every seven to nine years, has not been done. This once a decade maintenance paving is the city’s responsibility.
Do Rockland residents and businesses heavily use Old County? Yes. For over 600 Rockland residents living in the western part of town, Old County is the road that connects them to the city. For many Rockland residents commuting west toward Bath or northwest toward Augusta or north toward Camden, Old County is a daily link between work and home.
Also, Old County is one of two roads connecting Rockland’s residents to Pen Bay Medical Center (which is the area’s largest employer). Plus, hundreds of employees (and customers) of local businesses come into Rockland via Old County. And, all of the city’s municipal solid waste is trucked out over Old County Road.
Does Old County serve as a regional transportation corridor? Absolutely. Old County serves as an critical local southwest/northeast corridor linking businesses and residents in Cushing, Thomaston, South Thomaston, St. George, Rockland, Rockport and Camden (and linking these towns to municipalities outside the area via State Route 17 and via U.S. Route 1).
Who should pay to fix Old County? For 20 years through the administrations of Independent Gov. Angus King, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the city of Rockland and the Maine Department of Transportation have (to varying degrees) been pointing fingers at each other and saying “It’s your job to fix it, not mine!”
Old County is too important of a transportation link to the city and to the area for this impasse to continue much longer. The proposal currently being considered by City Council (and which would need voter approval in June or November) would have the city and the state each fund roughly half of major improvements to the road. Is this a reasonable cost allocation?
Rockland’s City Council is holding a public hearing on this question Wednesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. Let Councilors know what you think.