Thursday, December 12, 2013
WILTON — State officials will be moving forward with a plan to improve a dangerous local intersection by adding better turnoffs after residents voiced interest in the plan at a public hearing Thursday evening.
In the meantime, the intersection of Route 156 and U.S Route 2 also could be getting short-term safety improvements such as better traffic signs or lights after several of the 25 residents in attendance asked Maine Department of Transportation officials to seek approval for the interim measures.
The project proposal includes an improved turnoff divided by a median for drivers turning right off U.S. 2 onto Route 156 toward Wilton. It will also include a turnoff divided by a median on the same side of the intersection for drivers turning right onto U.S. 2 from Route 156.
The separated turnoffs on that side of the street are designed to let drivers coming from Wilton on Route 156 turn right onto U.S. 2 without worrying about any incoming traffic. The new layout also would allow drivers going straight or turning left onto U.S. 2 to pull up closer to the road safely when checking for traffic.
The proposal also will include improved signs and warning lights.
Town officials’ approval of a state construction project is not needed in order for it to be carried out, but Paul MacDonald, a project manager with the department, said public input and support still are sought as part of the process.
MacDonald said the project could cost around $400,000 and take several years before it is built, but he said all cost and timeline figures are still preliminary and probably will vary.
Some residents asked MacDonald to consider having turnoffs on both sides of the intersection, and he said he would research the effects of that proposal.
Town Manager Rhonda Irish, police Chief Heidi Wilcox and some residents in attendance asked the department to create temporary safety solutions for the intersection while waiting for the project to be completed. The intersection has a history of fatal accidents, including one in September in which a Chesterville woman died.
Irish said she plans to submit a request that the department lower the speed limit in the intersection from 40 mph to possibly 35 mph.
The project was one of four proposals presented Thursday night by transportation officials. Other proposals that generated less interest included an overpass, a traffic circle and a traffic light.
MacDonald said he did not have cost figures for the different projects but estimated they range from $300,000 to $8.1 million.
The department has been researching ways to improve the intersection since the occurrence of three fatal accidents and other serious crashes at the intersection in 2009.
There were eight accidents, including one involving a person taken by ambulance to a hospital, at the intersection in 2011 and 2012, according to the most recent Maine Department of Transportation data.
MacDonald said Thursday that he is not aware of any other intersections that also have two state routes crossing each other in a low dip in a similar layout.
“I don’t personally know of any others. That is a scary intersection,” he said.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252