Creamery Street use as a shortcut upsets residents

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Creamery Street resident Vanessa Jones opened a can of worms Tuesday when she suggested restricting through-traffic from using the street as a shortcut.

Neither the Bridgton Board of Selectmen or town department heads were keen on the idea, but the board agreed to take a month to study the problem and look for solutions.

In a July 28 letter to Town Manager Bob Peabody, Jones said, “Commuter traffic continues to be a problem, as people cut through this street at top speed.” She wanted selectmen to reconsider an idea, floated in 2005 by Creamery Street resident John Andrews, that would prevent right-hand turns onto Creamery Street from Highland Road and would also prevent left-hand turns on to Creamery Street from North High Street.

Creamery Street would remain a two-way street, but only if drivers entered it from the opposite lanes of Highland Road and North High Street than those they currently do. In other words, they’d have to turn right on Creamery Street from North High Street and turn left on Creamery Street from Highland Road.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jones said Creamery Street is a “major foot traffic area” for people coming from and going to Highland Lake Beach. Because there are no sidewalks and the street is narrow, she said, “I don’t even feel safe to walk to the beach with my kids.”

Jones said restricting through traffic would make it safer for pedestrians, which would further Bridgton’s pedestrian-friendly business image in the downtown.

Selectman Bob McHatton wasn’t persuaded by Jones’s arguments. “When it’s come before this board before, it’s filled this room up with people who use that street” and want to keep it open for their use, he said. The 2005 proposal by Andrews was preceded by other proposed solutions, also rejected, to make the street one-way or to add speed bumps.

Fire Chief Glen Garland didn’t like the idea of one-way traffic on the street, saying it can cause confusion for firefighters, even though fire trucks would be exempted from the one-way restriction in emergencies. “In Portland, one-way leads to a lot of problems and confusion,” Garland said.

Another Creamery Street resident, Suzanne Andrews, echoed Jones’s concerns about safety concerns on the street. “I live right on that dangerous curve. Two cars cannot pass on that curve,” she said. “There have been lots of near misses.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt asked Public Works Director Jim Kidder if it was true that two cars could not pass each other at the curve on the street.

“The way people drive, probably not,” Kidder said. But he added that Creamery Street is “just like a lot of streets in town, it just doesn’t have the width” that would allow for sidewalks or wide shoulders. He added that if the board decides that “local traffic only” signs might help the problem, the residents ought to be required to pay for them.

Police Chief Kevin Schofield said he wasn’t able to decipher the state’s rather confusing traffic count data at either end of the street. But he said he found evidence of only two accidents over the past 10 years involving Creamery Street, both of which occurred at the ends of the street. One of the crashes involved a driver who was intoxicated.

“I don’t see traffic crashes as being a historical problem,” said Schofield. He suggested there could be signs placed at either end advising drivers that the street is intended for local traffic only. However, unless the town’s traffic ordinance is amended to reflect the change, he said, a “No Through Traffic” sign would be only advisory in nature, and not enforceable.

Andrews said that Creamery Street is not just a side street. “It’s a heavily-travelled street,” especially by people coming from Harrison, she said. Drivers use Dugway Road from Route 117 to bypass the downtown, and turn on to Highland Road and Creamery Street to access Route 302 headed north.

Taft asked Schofield if he could ask his officers to pay extra attention to traffic violations on Creamery Street.

“With manpower being what it is…” Schofield said, “But yes, we’ll do the best we can.”

Town Manager Bob Peabody said the upper end of the street is 22-feet wide from North High Street to the sharp curve, and the lower end is only 19-feet wide from the curve to Highland Road. But at the street’s junction with Highland Road, Creamery Street is 72-feet wide, said Peabody, which makes it “pretty inviting to make that turn,” even though the width shrinks drastically thereafter.

Peabody said the town could look into sidewalks, but Hoyt said there was probably no room for sidewalks.

Taft asked Peabody to report back within a month after discussing with staff “a reasonable solution to this.” He noted that although the town had twice rejected adopting any traffic restrictions on Creamery Street, he didn’t know if any studies had been done about the problem.

Hoyt said pedestrians have the option to use the continuous sidewalks available on upper Main and North High Streets, if they don’t feel safe walking on Creamery Street.

McHatton agreed.

“Paul is right; there is safety in sidewalks (existing on Main and North High Streets) if people want to use them,” McHatton said. “But if it would accomplish anything by looking into it, fine.”

Jones said that as a taxpayer, she wouldn’t support sidewalks on her street.




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