By Charlotte Boynton
The Wiscasset Waterfront Committee and Wiscasset Town Plannner Jamel Torres (fourth from left) review Maine Department of Transportation renderings of a redesigned downtown and waterfront at a meeting Tuesday evening, Feb. 2. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
In lieu of a Wiscasset bypass, the Maine Department of Transportation has developed a conceptual drawing for redesigning the waterfront and the downtown area of Wiscasset to reduce traffic congestion and pedestrian safety. However, there is one huge obstacle: it would mean moving Red’s Eats about 120 feet below its present location to a new wharf that would be built.
The Wiscasset Waterfront Committee was the first town body to review the computer-generated pictures of the proposed plan at its meeting Tuesday evening, Feb. 3. The plan is currently on hold by DOT, according to Wiscasset Town Planner Jamel Torres.
It is about an $11 million project that would not cost the town any money. It could be built through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant, the same type of grant that paid for the new Dresden-Richmond bridge.
The concept was first presented to the owners of Red’s Eats and town officials this past fall, according to Torres, with Red’s Eats owners not being in favor of the project.
There are 25 key features to improve the traffic flow and pedestrian safety in the plan.
Included in the conceptual drawings is a plan for a new pedestrian underpass at Route 1 and the Davey Bridge; a new quarter-mile, multi-use boardwalk connecting to the new pedestrian underpass, the public landing, and a new passenger rail ticket office; a new wharf on the north side of Route 1; and new brick sidewalks on Main Street from Water Street to Middle Street.
A Maine Department of Transportation rendering shows the current location of Red’s Eats and a potential new location for the popular roadside stand 120 feet away on a new wharf. A large stone depicts the former location of Red’s Eats, with the Siberian elm tree in the background.
According to the conceptual drawing, there are three key benefits to the plan: a 61 percent reduction in peak-hours traffic along Route 1 south; improvement in pedestrian safety along Route 1, especially on Water Street; and reintroduction of the waterfront as a major attraction and entrance to the town’s historic district.
Recognizing the importance of Red’s Eats to the community and the attraction it is for the town, along with the large Siberian elm tree, DOT has a computerized photo with a large stone plaque where Red’s Eats once stood and the tree was standing behind it.
Members of the waterfront committee were very interested in the concept of redesigning the downtown area and the waterfront.
“I believe it would spur economic development for the town,” Torres said.
The Gagnon family issued a statement about the preliminary plans Wednesday, Feb. 4. The statement was signed by the Gagnon family, Deborah L. Gagnon, and Red’s Eats Inc.
“Red’s Eats has been a Wiscasset landmark since 1938,” the statement read. “Not many businesses in Maine, or any state for that matter, can boast that longevity and perseverance.”
“Having become known throughout the world … literally … we can say that we are very proud of what our father, Allen Gagnon, accomplished and what we have continued on in his memory.
“The idea of giving up a piece of land with such historical, sentimental, and successful value is very difficult for our family to even process.
“It is important to our family to ensure that our heirs have the same rights and opportunities on property that they can call their own, so that the family business may continue to operate for future generations.
“Red’s Eats has a specific identity with our Main Street heritage spot. Red’s Eats is the prominent focal point and destination of the downtown Wiscasset area. Red’s Eats is also an historical icon in Wiscasset and it is our priority to insure that we can carry on. We have many reasons for our decision.”