BANGOR, Maine — The intersection of Third and Cedar streets — long considered one of the more dangerous traffic spots in the city — has seen a drop in crashes since an Intersection Crash Avoidance System was installed last year, Bangor’s city engineer said last week.
The intersection has poor visibility and the slope of Cedar Street is steep, which is why it has a long history of crashes and accidents, city engineer Art Morgan said. The installation of the high-tech traffic sign in September 2012 appears to have been a turning point in protecting drivers.
“The state compiles a list of high crash sites [and] I compared the 2009-2012 numbers and the total number of accidents [at the intersection] has dropped,” Morgan said. “It was at 12 [in 2009] and it has dropped to nine [in 2012].”
Safety questions about the intersection resurfaced Tuesday when a Carmel woman operating a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Cedar Street was hit by an Orono woman driving a Honda sedan on Third Street. The motorcycle rider suffered a compound leg fracture and was hospitalized. The crash broke a recent statistical trend, officials said.
Data collected between October 2012 and June 2013 show three crashes occurred at Third and Cedar involving five cars and one truck. All three collisions were the result of one driver failing to yield the right of way to the other, according to Greg Costello, a Maine Department of Transportation crash analyst.
Costello said he remembers a time when the Third and Cedar intersection was showing 20 annual crashes.
The intersection has improved its MDOT severity and frequency rating, from 4.6 to 3.47, and improved its ranking in state and county accident statistics, Morgan said. The state’s traffic engineers calculate the severity and frequency rate based on a formula that uses the total number of crashes, the number of injuries and the severity of the injuries, the crash rate for the location and the statewide crash rate.
The most dangerous intersections in Bangor are those at Interstate 395 and I-95 and their associated interchanges, with the junction of Cedar and Third streets ranked fourth, according to the state’s crash data.
The Cedar and Third street intersection “was rated as the sixth-most dangerous intersection in the county in the ’09-’10 report and now it’s 14th,” Morgan said. “In the state, it was the 33rd-most dangerous and now it’s 73. It’s dropped quite a bit.”
“It’s a pretty good indicator” the device is working, Morgan said.
After previous attempts to increase safety and decrease the frequency of accidents at the limited-visibility intersection did little to reduce crashes, the Maine Department of Transportation installed the $25,000 electronic radar system in September 2012.
Before the system was installed, the MDOT extended curbing and put in flashing red lights above the intersection on Third Street, which also features stop signs. Flashing yellow lights were installed on Cedar.
MDOT officials also gave serious consideration to creating a roundabout at the intersection.
The crash avoidance system consists of a digital readout on a screen mounted on a telephone pole, visible to motorists approaching the stop signs on Third Street. When cars travel up or down Cedar Street, digital outlines of cars light up on the screens — on one side for cars going down the hill and on the other for those coming up.
Cheryl A. Dunton, 48, of Carmel was driving a 1994 Harley motorcycle up the hill on Cedar Street at about 8:44 a.m. when she was stuck by Carol Brooks, 57, of Orono, who was driving a 2012 Honda Accord and trying to cross the intersection, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said.
Brooks stopped on Third Street at the stop sign on the southern side of the intersection and waited for a car to pass, then proceeded forward toward Union Street, striking Dunton, the sergeant said.
“She did not see the motorcycle coming up the hill,” Edwards said.
No charges are pending, Edwards said.
Dunton was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center, where she was listed Friday afternoon in fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.