BANGOR, Maine — The city hopes to reduce the number of medians planned for Main Street amid a major road project in order to ease concerns of area businesses and residents.
Early drafts of the plan called for nearly 1,500 feet of raised islands dividing travel lanes along Main Street. But according to Director of Public Works Dana Wardwell, the city is looking at just over 1,100 feet. The city also added plans for a crosswalk across Main Street between Sidney and Larkin streets, citing complaints about a lack of crossings along the busy stretch of road.
Bangor’s Infrastructure Committee gave the preliminary plan the go-ahead during a meeting last week, but the revisions will still need Maine Department of Transportation approval, as it is funding the bulk of the project. It will move into the design phase.
Wardwell said the city would be reluctant to go any lower than 1,100 feet, fearing it might compromise funding for the project. There will be space between medians to allow for left-hand turns, and Wardwell said there are no plans to allow for U-turns.
The main goal of the project, according to the Maine Department of Transportation, is to improve pedestrian safety. The area has seen a steady rise in pedestrian traffic in recent years. Hordes of people attending concerts and events along the waterfront cross the road to get to their cars after events. Vehicles traveling the five-lane stretch of road also tend to exceed posted speed limits. Those factors, combined with poor lighting along some parts of the road, can make for dangerous conditions, the Maine Department of Transportation has said.
These medians should slow down traffic, give pedestrians a “shelter” while crossing four lanes of traffic and improve the aesthetics of the street, officials say.
Under the proposal, trees and other greenery would be planted in the medians, and between 30 and 40 new street lights, similar to the ones outside Cross Insurance Center, will be set up along Main Street, including some on the islands. In addition, the sidewalk on the waterfront side of Main Street will be widened to 10 feet to accommodate more pedestrians. Travel lanes will be reduced to 11 feet in width.
The new crosswalk will be installed just north of Tim Hortons, with the same flashing warning beacons seen at crosswalks downtown.
Area business owners voiced concerns about raised islands reducing access to their buildings under the initial plans. Others didn’t like the idea of losing the center “shared turn” lane, because many people use it to help them make a left turn onto Main Street from side streets when traffic is busy in both directions.
The initial version of the project was estimated to cost about $1.7 million, funded mostly through state and federal grants, Wardwell said. The city match is about $240,000. He said he hopes the final cost won’t fluctuate much as result of the changes the city proposes.
Wardwell said the city plans to submit its revision to Maine Department of Transportation as soon as possible, and he would like the project to go out to bid in June. City staff are working on a formal design proposal, and construction could begin in August.