Main Hill traffic issues prompt call for action

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Businesses and homeowners along the Main Hill section of Bridgton’s Main Street are fed up over traffic problems they’ve had to live with for years. Eastbound cars and trucks routinely tend to speed down the hill, not slowing until they reach the bottom of the hill near Craftworks, they say.

Not a few of these vehicles are quite noisy, too, they say, because they have defective or illegally-modified exhaust systems that bark loudly when brakes are applied, creating what they call “an acoustical nightmare.”

But alongside these concerns exists two more problems — the lack of on-street or public parking, and prohibition of wintertime overnight parking — that, in terms of the Hill’s economic growth potential, are seen as the most pressing of all.

These traffic issues were described in detail in a Dec. 5 letter to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen written by Julie and Rick Whelchel. Last year, the Whelchel’s bought an historic building at 31 Main Street after selling the Noble House, and are focusing all their energies toward restoring the building to its former glory with a storefront at street level and residence on the second floor.

“The speeding affects safety. The illegal exhaust creates high levels of noise pollution, which creates an acoustical nightmare, and the parking issues affect rehabilitation efforts and economic growth on Main Hill,” the letter states. Julie Whelchel said she met with most of Bridgton’s department heads to describe the concerns in detail, and to offer proposed solutions.

At their December meeting, however, Bridgton Selectmen deferred action on their concerns until some time in the New Year.

On the speeding issue, the letter points out that the width of Main Street on Main Hill is actually one foot wider than at the bottom of the hill and the rest of downtown Main Street. Parking spaces could easily be created on the Shorey Park side of the street without compromising the legal widths for traffic lanes, the letter states. “Short of requesting a paved, public parking area at the Main Hill end of town, the addition of parking spaces on the hill provides some relief for now.”

Main Hill is not tied into the town’s downtown septic system, “leaving property owners to use their limited lot space for leach fields, not parking,” the letter states. “This puts property and business owners at a disadvantage, compared to our neighbors further east where both on-street and public, off-street parking is ample.” A chart was included with the letter showing “a drastic decline in the number of parking spaces available as one travels from the east to the west end of Main Street.”

To solve the parking problem, the letter proposes that five parking spaces be added along Shorey Park, and another nine spaces could be added west of Highland Road going up Main Hill. Not only would that relieve constraints on tenants, the on-street parking would encourage customer activity for Main Hill businesses. Adding on-street parking would also allow for alternate-side-of-the street overnight parking during the winter months so snowplows could do their jobs. If a townwide snow ban on parking was needed, the town could make winter relief parking available in the lot across from Shorey Park by the picnic pavilion.

As for exhaust noise, the letter recommends that the town post two signs, coupled by enforcement from police. The first would be a hill warning sign and the second would warn motorists against unmuffled engine brake use and listing the maximum fine for violators.

Selectmen declined to give their opinions on the changes proposed in the letter, but did say they will add it to their list of projects to be addressed in the coming months.

 

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