A bird's eye view of the Back Cove West Storage Conduit project along Baxter Boulevard. (Photo courtesy of Maine Imaging)
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Residents will now wait longer than anticipated for the reopening of Baxter Boulevard as additional delays plague sewer outflow construction projects along Portland’s Back Cove. 

The delays were caused by an unusual volume of rain and an unanticipated engineering change. 

Due to continuous rain delays, reopening the boulevard, the site of the Back Cove West Storage Conduit, is now planned for the end of August. Final paving was originally scheduled for the week of July 24 and the route was supposed to reopen soon after, but uncooperative weather would be the major obstacle to clearing that final hurdle, the project engineers said.

Both the Back Cove South and the Back Cove West projects — West is the one along Baxter Boulevard that has closed the route from Vannah Street to Payson Park for over two years — are expected to be a milestone for Portland once completed. Crews have been installing massive subterranean storage containers that hold larger amounts of stormwater and are expected to greatly quell the amount of sewer and stormwater discharge into Back Cove.

However, the route’s reopening won’t mark the end of work on Baxter Boulevard. Minor construction efforts are planned for the Dartmouth Street sidewalk, plus additional curbing and grass restoration, according to Senior Project Engineer Bradley Roland.

That could also mean there are limitations on traffic flow, like making the street alternating one-way traffic until that work finishes up.

“It really comes down to the safety of the workers,” Roland said. “As soon as we open it, we know it’s going to be a racetrack,” Roland said.

Meanwhile, the Back Cove South Storage Facility Project, running along I-295 and the Back Cove trail, has seen a separate delay owing to a shift in project planning.

The original hope was to have the project finished by the end of the year. Roland now hopes for the work to conclude by mid-2024. It’s been bumped out further due to a need for on-site jet grouting, a common method that provides support for excavation and to control unstable soil. 

The site’s engineers became uncomfortable with the soft soil and changed how they approached the project, Roland said, to ensure the crew can excavate safely after they saw earth movement while digging for the third on-site storage tank. The other three tanks, which have been fully constructed, didn’t require any jet grouting.

Despite the further delays and unanticipated jet grouting, Roland said the project is still on par with the preset budget by the contractor, about $42 million in total for the project.

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