BREWER, Maine — Changes are in the works for the North Main Street corridor, the stretch of roadway between the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge and the Penobscot Bridge, which is designed to change first impressions of the city and improve traffic safety.
“It’s an exciting time for the whole waterfront area” and downtown Brewer, City Manager Steve Bost said recently.
The city is planning to add travel-through lanes, change the location of a traffic signal, remove on-street parking and add off-street parking and align a street crossing that has the city’s highest crash rate.
A public hearing on the proposed traffic changes for the North Main Street corridor is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at City Hall to hear what residents and business owners think of the draft plans.
Leaders also are taking steps to purchase an unsightly building block that greets those driving over the Chamberlain bridge, with plans to replace it with a small park with additional parking.
City Council members endorsed signing a $116,000 purchase and sale agreement on Oct. 14 for the Archer Block, located on the corner of Wilson and North Main streets. The closing for the sale is expected to take place July 9, 2009.
City officials also are applying for funds to begin work on the planned Historic Waterfront Trail, which eventually will stretch from South Brewer to Indian Head Trail Park.
All three projects “will improve the look and feel” of the city, said Tanya Pereira, Brewer economic development specialist.
Not everybody is happy with the proposed traffic pattern. Pam Bittrolff, owner of Pam’s Appliance and Furniture, which has been located on the corner of Center and North Main streets since 1994, is upset the two-way street in front of her business would become one-way.
It will hamper customer and delivery access, she said last week, adding she will be at the public hearing to let the city know her feelings.
“I don’t see what they are going to accomplish,” she said. “The trucks get caught at the top of the hill, where they stop. I don’t see the good it’s doing.”
The owners of the businesses around her have discussed the proposed changes and are all concerned, Bittrolff said.
The city is using Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System plans created years ago as base plans to improve traffic flow, especially heavy truck traffic on the steep Bridge Hill.
“We’ve had vats of fish oil and all sorts of contaminants spill out” onto the roadway, Bost said. “Remember the crabs” that spilled out in mid-August?
An estimated 8,000 live rock crabs from Virginia were dumped on Bridge Hill when the load shifted in the tractor-trailer carrying them to Canada.
Funds for the road construction project, estimated by BACTS to cost just more than $550,000 in 2006, will come from funds leftover from a 2005 federal transportation bill earmarked for Brewer that originally totaled $1.75 million to improve the city’s main corridor.
“We have some money leftover from the South Main Street project to address issues on North Main Street,” Pereira said. “The earmark language was to make improvements to Route 15” as part of the redevelopment of the former Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill site. Route 15 comes into Brewer from Orrington and travels through the city and crosses into Bangor to become Broadway.
An estimated $700,000 remains for the work, which is expected to start next spring if all goes as planned.
“The most pressing issue is the issue of Center Street and North Main Street,” Pereira said. “It’s the highest crash area in the city. We’re going to move the signal and align Betton Street with Parker Street.”
By adding a travel-through lane, on-street parking between the Chamberlain and Penobscot bridges will be eliminated, but there are plans to add off-street parking in the current location of Betton Street. Preliminary plans also call for making Center Street one-way.
“We haven’t made a final determination,” Pereira said of the plans.
That’s why public comment is needed at the public hearing, she said.
The draft traffic plan includes:
- Realignment of Betton Street and Parker Street to create a four-way intersection.
- Relocation of the traffic signal from Center Street to the newly aligned Betton and Parker streets intersection.
- Creating a public parking area on the former Betton Street locale.
- Making Center Street one-way.
- Coordination of traffic signals in favor of northbound traffic.
- Elimination of on-street parking between Betton and Wilson streets to provide additional travel and turn lanes.
- Designating Union Street, at its junction with North Main Street, as right-in, right-out only.