Wiscasset voters will decide Tuesday if the town should continue its controversial lawsuit against the Maine Department of Transportation regarding the Wiscasset traffic project.

Voting will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Wiscasset Community Center.

During the Select Board meeting last week, more than two dozen people from both sides of the aisle spoke and tried to make their case about the future of the lawsuit to the five-member board.

One by one, people told the board that it’s time for Wiscasset to embrace change and ease the traffic problems in downtown or that the Department of Transportation isn’t listening to the people in the town about what is best for Wiscasset.

The town sued MDOT on Nov. 28 over the state’s $5 million plan to ease the notorious summertime traffic bottlenecks in the village center after Gov. Paul LePage’s administration allegedly backed away from key promises and asserted the state didn’t have to comply with local ordinances.

Ted Talbot, MDOT press secretary, said it is unprecedented for MDOT to be sued by a municipality to stop a project, and he said the department’s projects almost always proceed in a very collaborative manner through all phases.

“MDOT cannot dismiss the significant local support for the project, or the best interests of the public and of the region at large with regard to this vital and highly-traveled mid-coast route,” Talbot said. “MDOT must move forward with the project on behalf of the thousands of travelers and businesses that are affected every year by delays in Wiscasset.”

In a motion filed in early March, attorneys representing the town said MDOT told them it might simply drop a component of the project: Creating parking lots off nearby side streets to make up for the lost parking spots on Main Street.

The motion asks the state Business and Consumer Court in Portland to prevent work on any part of the project from commencing until the department seeks and receives the town’s historic preservation review.

“This raises the possibility that MDOT might seek to build a truncated project that strips all parking from Main Street but does not provide any off-street parking in its place, a configuration that was never reviewed or discussed with the town and that does even more violence to the local interests than the original scheme,” attorney John Shumadine wrote in the filing.

The transportation department contends that the town’s historic preservation ordinance is not a zoning ordinance, and therefore it isn’t forced to comply with the ordinance under state law.

The town argues that the project, and numerous components, must comply with the town’s historic preservation ordinance and must receive one or more certificates of appropriateness from Wiscasset’s historic preservation commission.

Jorge Pena, of Wiscasset, asked the Select Board who would pay for the lawsuit. There has been speculation and rumor that a private citizen with ties to the area has offered to pay for the city’s entire legal bill, but the Select Board said it hasn’t discussed that type of arrangement.

Sherri Dunbar, a resident and real estate broker, said it’s sad to see what is going on on both sides of the issue and the negative energy and stress in the room is noticeable.

“People are watching and they are waiting to see how this plays out,” she said.

Kim Dolce questioned whether the members of the Select Board have read all of the MDOT’s studies and pieces of information about the project. She said it didn’t appear that everyone on the board is as informed as they should be.

“Why (the DOT) pout together this plan I have no idea,” Dolce said. “It’s flawed and it’s been flawed from the beginning.”

The center of Wiscasset’s village is a district of 18th- and 19th-century buildings named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

There are notorious summer traffic jams 2 to 3 miles long on Route 1 on the north — by famous lobster roll shop Red’s Eats — and south approaches to the Davey Bridge that spans the Sheepscot River. The state has been trying to solve the problem for more than 50 years.

The state’s latest plan was unveiled in spring 2016 and promised to improve traffic flow at its worst by 12 percent to 14 percent, mostly by adding two traffic lights and “bump out” pedestrian-crossing waiting areas in the village — components that nobody opposes.

But it also seeks to remove parking on Main Street — currently 23 spaces — and parts of key side streets, measures that the state’s studies say account for just 2 percent to 4 percent of flow improvement.

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