Monday, December 9, 2013
WILTON — The intersection where a Chesterville woman died in a car crash Tuesday already was scheduled for safety improvements by the Maine Department of Transportation.
Town Manager Rhonda Irish said town officials have been working since 2009 with the Maine Department of Transportation to improve the safety of an intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Route 156, because they were concerned about a string of fatal and near-fatal crashes at the intersection. The section of road is also Route 4.
Just before a decision in 2009 to improve the intersection, three people, all older than 80, were injured critically as one driver tried to cross the highway at Route 156.
At the time, it was the third accident in two weeks along that section of U.S. Route 2, which is at a a low point in the road. The Wilton police chief at the time, Dennis Brown, said that because the intersection lies in a dip, people don’t have much time to react to oncoming traffic.
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 data from the Maine Department of Transportation.
Irish said according to the designs drawn up by the department, the improvements will include changing the road on the east side of the intersection to include turnoffs.
Irish said the public will be able to comment and ask questions about the road construction project at a public hearing to be scheduled in Wilton.
The last fatality at the intersection before the one Tuesday occurred in April 2010, when a Wilton man’s car crossed into the oncoming lane of U.S. 2 and hit two other vehicles.
After Tuesday’s accident, witnesses told police that Claire Trask, 59, had driven her 2000 Jeep Cherokee north on Route 156 and into the intersection with U.S. 2 around 1:15 p.m. when the two vehicles collided.
The logging truck, driven by Patrick Smith, 37, of Dixfield, tipped over as he tried to avoid the crash, according to Chief Heidi Wilcox, of the Wilton police.
There also were three fatalities at or near the intersection in 2009.
On Sept. 3, 2009, a Farmington man was killed when his car crossed the center yellow line and struck an oncoming chip truck near the Dixfield town line.
On Aug. 28, 2009, a rider on an all-terrain vehicle was killed and a passenger critically injured when they tried to cross the highway and were hit by a logging truck.
On March 9, 2009, a grandmother was killed, and her grown grandchildren and a great-grandchild were injured, when another driver crossed the center line near Route 156 and hit their car head-on.
Across the state, there was an average of 31,784 motor vehicle accidents annually in the state from 2005 to 2009, according to a Maine Department of Transportation report.
In 2009, 8,500 of those crashes were at intersections and resulted in 18 fatalities.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252