Route 302 work could improve pedestrian safety

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — It is an area with continuous vehicular traffic — some of the traffic is driving on through along Route 302, other vehicles are pulling in and out of the shopping center that houses a Subway, a Rite Aid and the store often referred to as “Tony’s Foodland.” There’s a bank nearby.

The road that intersects with Route 302 is Route 35, bringing people onto 302 from residential areas or from connecting towns like Harrison and Otisfield. Traffic from the shopping center often enters or exits on the Route 35 side.

In a nutshell, it is a busy area. At times, the traffic can be congested and chaotic.

There is a lot of pedestrian traffic, too — from people walking to cars, to people crossing the road to get to other businesses, or access the Causeway. During the summer, as the number of vehicles and people on foot increases exponentially, the problems compound.

It is no wonder selectmen have always expressed concerns about having better crosswalks and better traffic indicators in that area of town.

In addition to those public safety issues, the traffic signal setup doesn’t always operate right. In the past, it has been nonfunctioning for up to a week.

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has budgeted and approved the replacement of the traffic signal and safety improvements to the Route 302/Route 35 intersection.

MDOT is paying half the bill, too.

On Monday, the Naples Board of Selectmen officially accepted the state’s half of the costs and transferred $30,000 from the town highway account to pay for the town’s share.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $60,000, according to Naples Chairman Jim Grattelo.

“Basically, it’s a $60,000 project. MDOT does $30,000 and town does $30,000. It comes out of our highway” account, Grattelo said.

The unanimous vote was to authorize the town manager to sign the agreement with MDOT, and that will go forward.

Selectman Rich Cebra, in his capacity as state representative, sat down last year with MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and discussed how the Naples intersection could become a construction project. The approach was making the intersection safe for pedestrians.

“The reason I went after this, people are in desperate state for crosswalks right now,” Cebra said.

During Monday’s meeting, Grattelo said, “For the purpose of the public, thanks to Rich [Cebra], the MDOT has set aside money to update the intersection, insert crosswalks on Route 35. There will be a crosswalk to the left and a crosswalk to the right. [The traffic pole] will have buttons so you can press and cross the road safely,” he said.

On the side of Route 302 where Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern (formerly Bray’s Brewpub and Eatery)  is located, a crosswalk will be put in, also with flashing light “podium” with a button pedestrians can push before crossing to make drivers more aware of the need to stop.

Selectman Kevin Rogers said he was pleased with the project being approved by the state, but there was more that could be done.

“This is great. It has been needed for a long time,” he said.

“In my eyes, we a really need a turning lane, coming down 35,

Going down 35 and turning right. We have all seen it. We all know it needs a turning lane there,” Rogers said.

Cebra said he didn’t anticipate the state approving a road widening project.

“I can tell you Route 35, being a minor collector road, it is low on their radar. They would make us pay for it. For all intents and purposes, people have abandoned minor collector roads,” Cebra said.

There was a moment of humor during this agenda item, when Rogers pressed with the asking wouldn’t hurt approach, saying the town should see if funding a turning lane could be possible.

Rogers turned to Cebra and asked him, “Can you contact someone and get an absolute ‘no?’ ”

Cebra said, “What time is it now? He’s still awake. I could call now and get an absolute ‘no.’ ”

Rogers said, “People will complain: ‘Why didn’t you guys put in a turning lane.’ ”

 

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