May 27, 2018
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Ellsworth seeks tweaks to reduce confusion on street

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Nearly four years after a huge reconstruction project rerouted traffic at the “Ellsworth Triangle,” the city is looking to erase confusion and make for easier traffic flows on one of the most affected streets.

Since the re-engineering project was finished in September 2008, northbound traffic from Trenton and Mount Desert Island has been rerouted across Myrick Street to Downeast Highway, where motorists can turn left and continue north toward Bangor or connect with U.S. Route 1 south.

Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal said the city knew in 2008 that people wouldn’t immediately appreciate the more complicated Myrick Street, but four years later people still are having trouble with the multiple merges, changing lanes and busy intersections.

So she has been in talks with the Maine Department of Transportation and Portland-based Sebago Technics to tweak Myrick Street, which she said is “overengineered” and perplexing to motorists.

“We hear that people just can’t get used to it,” Beal said Tuesday. “It doesn’t flow very well, so we’re looking for ways to make it flow better.”

Myrick Street is part of a triangle formed on the other sides by Downeast Highway and Bar Harbor Road/Route 3. The northbound detour onto Myrick Street was made necessary in 2008 when the stretch of Route 3 from the bottom of Beckwith Hill to the intersection of Myrick Street was turned into a one-way toward MDI, which eased traffic congestion along Ellsworth’s High Street.

Myrick is a curvy road. From Bar Harbor Road, it balloons from two travel lanes to six and back down to four at Downeast Highway. There are several merge areas, and through lanes become turn lanes without much notice.

“The geometrics of it, with all the curves out there, it creates confusion,” said Steve Landry, Maine DOT assistant state traffic engineer, who has been working on solutions with Beal. “People line up in the wrong lane, or they think the left-turn lane into Home Depot is the left-turn lane onto Route 1, then they weave out back into the road.”

Beal and Landry have identified a few key problems, and some solutions. Among the suggestions are a traffic light for northbound traffic from Bar Harbor Road onto Myrick Street. That’s a hectic spot, as northbound traffic must merge left on Myrick Street to stay on Route 3, while left-turning traffic from Ellsworth must merge right to get to the No. 1 Myrick Street destination — Walmart.

Another problem is traffic lights at the six-lane intersection at the middle of Myrick Street, from which shoppers access Walmart and Home Depot, don’t line up with the corresponding lanes. Landry said there have been complaints from drivers who are unsure where they should be. It’s unclear how that problem might be resolved.

Lastly, through traffic from Bar Harbor Road is dumped into a three-lane intersection at the end of Myrick Street, with two left-turn lanes headed toward downtown Ellsworth and a right-turn lane toward U.S. Route 1 north and Lamoine. Beal said the problem is that most traffic is headed left, but the through lanes don’t line up with those turning lanes. Landry said a traffic island between left- and right-turn lanes could help give drivers a heads-up as to where they should be.

No cost estimates have been drawn up for any of the improvement ideas yet, but Beal said most of the fixes would be relatively cheap. Myrick Street is a state road now, but its maintenance soon will become the city’s responsibility with the passage of an urban compact agreement that delivers several state roads to Ellsworth for management. So it will be up to the city to fund any improvements to Myrick Street.

Beal said any changes would have to be approved by the City Council. She’ll bring the item to their attention once more research is done through Sebago Technics, she said.

There have been 71 motor-vehicle accidents on Myrick Street since the new traffic began in 2008, most of them at one of the three intersections, according to Ellsworth police Lt. Harold Page. Seven of those accidents resulted in personal injury.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

Correction: A previous headline on this story erroneously referred to the Ellsworth Triangle as being downtown.

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