BANGOR, Maine — City officials are interested in hearing directly from Bangor residents and other regular travelers who use Stillwater Avenue and the Interstate 95 off ramp.
The ramp, which was built 11 years ago, prohibits drivers from making left-hand turns. Drivers may go straight ahead into a shopping plaza or make a right turn onto Stillwater.
“That was done as a condition of building the thing with federal funds by the Federal Highway Administration,” said Art Morgan, Bangor’s civil engineer. “One thing they do when evaluating a project is an environmental assessment to make sure federal dollars are being spent the way the public wants them to be spent.
“At the time this was put in, there were a considerable number of citizens concerned that this would increase traffic on Howard Street and the ‘tree streets’ between State [Street] and Stillwater.”
In order to address those concerns, federal planners included a prohibition on any left-hand turn lanes from the exit onto Stillwater.
Over the years, however, more and more people have asked city officials to remove that ban.
“So now we’re looking at having the restriction removed, but we first have to petition MDOT [Maine Department of Transportation] and perform a traffic study of the intersection to see if this change would require any improvements and additional construction,” Morgan said.
If the MDOT approves the change, the Federal Highway Administration would also have to approve it because it was federally funded.
A public hearing — just like the one that was needed for the approval of the exit’s construction in the first place — would have to be held.
“For that reason, I’m soliciting public comments and opinions that will allow me to serve the majority of our citizens’ concerns about that interchange,” said Morgan.
Morgan said he and other city staff members will also have to evaluate the financial feasibility of such a project, if it’s deemed necessary.
“It’s a very busy intersection functioning at an acceptable level right now,” Morgan said. “To create a separate left-hand turn lane, it’s likely it will involve some improvements.”
Morgan has set up an email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — for citizens to send their comments about the exit and the idea of eliminating the ban on left turns there.