How to tap infrastructure funding for downtown revitalization: Waterville, Maine

Communities lament the small—sometimes almost non-existent—amounts of funding available for revitalization. While its true that funding with that specific goal is often rare, there’s significant money available for revitalization under other labels.

The largest pot of available cash is infrastructure renewal.  Learning how to repackage a communities revitalization program as a (e.g.) transportation program can turn the funding spigot wide open. Long-time REVITALIZATION have seen dozens—probably over 100—such examples in these pages.

Here’s another: On December 6, 2018, it was announced that the state of Maine will receive a total of $26.6 million to fund three transportation projects that should help revitalize local economies. The projects—which will be funded through the BUILD program (the Trump administration’s rebranded version of the Obama administration’s highly successful TIGER Grants program)—will improve infrastructure statewide as well as create jobs, reduce traffic congestion, and increase safety.

$7.3 million of that funding will go to the city of Waterville, where it will be used to boost the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize its Main Street area.  Specifically, the Waterville Main Street Revitalization Project will receive a $7,371,200 BUILD grant for a $9.2 million project to make infrastructure improvements in the city’s downtown area.

The project includes changing traffic direction from one-way to two-way on two downtown roads, making improvements to intersections, and updating sidewalks, plantings, and benches. In addition—and probably most important from a revitalization perspective—the funding will allow the city to complete its Riverwalk project.

We are deeply grateful to Senator Collins and Secretary Chao for their support of Waterville’s revitalization through the awarding of this BUILD grant,” said Colby College President David A. Greene. “This grant will be a catalyst for a safe, beautiful, and vibrant Main Street. Our downtown businesses will prosper with these changes and job growth and opportunity will continue to be the cornerstone of Waterville’s resurgence. This is a great day for the city of Waterville and for all those who are committed to seeing this community thrive.

The other two Maine transportation projects that will receive BUILD funding—but without the community revitalization tie-in—are:

  • Western Gateways Project: The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) will receive an $11,027,500 BUILD grant for a $22 million project to repair, resurface, improve drainage, and enhance pedestrian safety to a network of three key roadways in three rural towns: Kingfield, Woodstock, and Fryeburg. MDOT will increase the safety of these roads for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians and provide access to rural retail, commerce, employment centers, shipping routes, and recreation points critical to the economy. The proposal will meet ADA and MDOT’s standards for sidewalk, crossing, and bike lane safety.
  • Traffic Mobility Improvements Project: MDOT will receive an $8,241,100 BUILD grant for a $16.5 million project to replace and enhance 104 of the 804 traffic signals statewide with updated technology. This includes traffic signal systems; infrared camera vehicle detection at intersections; fiber interconnect wire; emergency pre-emption devices to improve fire, safety, and law enforcement navigation through signals; back-plates with reflective striping; communication to the Traffic Management Center; ADA improvements; and infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles. MDOT believes these upgrades will help maintain safe and efficient traffic flow and proposes to maintain all traffic signal detection, rather than leaving it to municipalities.

BUILD provides federal assistance for vital transportation projects across the country. Since the program’s inception as TIGER in 2009, Maine has secured over $160 million for key transportation investments, including bridges, seaports, and rail projects.

Improving Maine’s transportation infrastructure is one of my top priorities. I am delighted to announce this $26.6 million investment that will benefit communities across the state,” said Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. “These projects will enhance the safety and efficiency of our transportation network while growing our economy and helping Mainers reach their homes and jobs more quickly.

Featured photo by Billy Hathorn (via Wikipedia) shows downtown Waterville in 2014.

Learn more about BUILD grants.

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