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Traffic problems during Cross Center events concern Bangor officials

Nok-Noi Ricker | BDN
Nok-Noi Ricker | BDN
People who waited in line to get into the 36th annual Bangor Gun Show at the Cross Insurance Center on Sept. 7, 2013, slowly start to make their way inside.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City officials are trying to figure out the best way to ease traffic congestion during events at the Cross Insurance Center.

The first few events at the new arena have drawn swarms of motorists to Main Street in Bangor, causing traffic to back up as vehicles slowly filter into the facility’s parking lot from Dutton and Buck streets.

During a Monday night Infrastructure Committee meeting, Dana Wardwell, the city’s public works director, outlined the traffic flow pattern for city councilors. The pattern was designed by the Maine Department of Transportation and called for changing the lane configurations on the lower portion of Buck and Dutton streets to accommodate heavier traffic.

Much of the problem stems from drivers not realizing Buck Street is supposed to serve as the main entrance for the facility, not Dutton, according to Wardwell. Many people still use the Dutton Street entrance because that was the traditional way of getting into the old arena.

Signs have been posted before some events directing drivers entering the venue to Buck Street.

As cars leaving I-395 access Main Street, traffic backs up as motorists wait to turn left from Main onto Dutton Street. Council Chairman Nelson Durgin said that during one recent event, traffic was backed all the way up onto I-395 in both the eastbound and westbound lanes.

Buck Street now has three lanes, and the center lane can reverse direction depending on whether it’s before or after an event. Dutton Street, however, has one lane in and two lanes out of the venue.

“This type of traffic flow is new to the area and will take some getting used to,” Wardwell said. “We will be monitoring problems and making adjustments as necessary.

Councilor James Gallant suggested the city might want to turn off traffic signals at those intersections before and after events and have police direct traffic. Wardwell said he would explore that and other options, including the possibility of closing off the Dutton Street entrance and having all attendees use Buck Street.

Wardwell said the city will watch traffic conditions at future events to determine the best solution to the problem.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the committee recommended the full City Council approve plans to have the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System conduct a traffic study on Broadway. The road is the city’s most heavily traveled, seeing about 24,000 vehicles per day between the Interstate 95 entrance and Griffin Road.

By having BACTS perform the study, the city will have to cover about 20 percent of the cost, rather than covering the full bill or having to secure a grant. City Engineer Art Morgan said the study should reveal ways to improve traffic flow and move motorists through the area more easily while improving safety and reducing accidents. Morgan said he hopes the study can be done for $100,000 but said the cost could be higher.

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