Traffic circle ‘bookends’ get cool reception

IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY — Traffic circles are envisioned for the intersections at Main Hill, shown at left, and Pondicherry Square, in the draft streetscape design for Bridgton’s Main Street prepared by Ironwood Design Group.

IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY — Traffic circles are envisioned for the intersections at Main Hill, shown at left, and Pondicherry Square, in the draft streetscape design for Bridgton’s Main Street prepared by Ironwood Design Group.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Engineers tasked with redesigning Bridgton’s Main Street think that creating traffic circles at the Monument and Pondicherry Square will improve pedestrian safety and create “a signature gateway to downtown.”

Others in town, however, don’t like the idea one bit.

“I’ve talked to 12 different people, and no one I’ve talked to is in favor of the roundabouts,” as the traffic circles are termed, said Selectmen Paul Hoyt at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Resident Lucia Terry also said she was “not a fan” of the traffic circle concept, part of a draft streetscape design prepared by Ironwood Design Group.

Town Manager Bob Peabody said that at this point, “Nothing is cast in stone,” and that a lot will depend on an upcoming review of the design by the Maine Department of Transportation. Peabody plans to ask Ironwood Design Group’s Founding Principal Jeff Hyland to staff a table at the Town Hall during the Tuesday, June 14 Town Elections to gauge public opinion about the circles, as well as other aspects of the design.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Hyland, a landscape architect, called the traffic circles “a great welcome mat to your community, like an exclamation mark.” He said that by having the traffic circles at both ends of the downtown, they would act “like bookends, a signature.”

Hyland said the roundabouts were proposed in direct response to residents’ requests to create a design that will calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety. Residents told him the traffic pattern at the Monument on Main Hill is confusing, and that traffic coming through the intersection from the west tends to be traveling too fast.

At Pondicherry Square, a traffic circle would eliminate the need for a traffic light and allow for shorter crosswalks aligned with traffic islands. Hyland said Pondicherry Square has a “skewed intersection,” which allows large trucks to make wide turns but also “creates an oppressive sea of asphalt that is not an ideal gateway into downtown.”

Traffic studies would be required to determine if a roundabout is even feasible at Pondicherry Square, but at the Monument, the intersection already has the characteristics of a roundabout, Hyland said. Currently pedestrians must walk down to Highland Road to cross Main Street, he said, but with a roundabout, crosswalks could be created right at the circle.

Other aspects of the design explained by Hyland included the addition of more on-street parking on lower Depot Street and the creation of sidewalk bumpouts at various locations to accommodate outdoor seating and/or merchandise displays by retailers. More street trees and benches would be added as well, enhancing the street’s allure as a pedestrian-friendly destination. Gage Street is envisioned to become a dead-end street

Hyland’s plan also proposes to make the entrance to Nulty Street from Main Street to Park Street one-way, due to the poor site lines at that location. Selectman Greg Watson suggested an analysis be done to see if tour buses could navigate the turn at Nulty Street, where a Welcome Center is proposed at the Bridgton Redemption Center building.

The meeting with MDOT to go over the draft design is expected to take place over the next two weeks. “They are integral partners in all this,” Hyland said.

 

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