BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s busiest road is riddled with offset intersections, lengthy lines of traffic, dangerous left-hand turns, and it serves as a catalyst for vehicle crashes, which is why city officials caution that improving the Broadway corridor will be a lengthy, expensive, trying process that is about to get underway.
The city’s engineers and public works department rolled out the early stages of a five-year work plan to improve safety and efficiency along the stretch of Broadway running from Grandview Avenue to Interstate 95, during an Infrastructure Committee meeting Tuesday night.
Nearly 25,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road each day. From 2011 to 2013, there were 267 crashes in the 0.8-mile stretch, according to Maine Department of Transportation data.
“We want to keep this thing moving forward,” City Engineer John Theriault told councilors.
This year’s work plan includes restriping parts of the road, planning future changes and starting conversations with area businesses about the changes they might start seeing and the potential of building “connections” between parking lots of neighboring businesses.
Theriault said the city anticipates a lot of feedback that could influence the project.
Several of these changes could affect the traffic patterns, entries and exits to these businesses.
The plan is based on the findings of a report released in September 2015 by T.Y. Lin International, a planning and engineering firm the city hired to study traffic flow problems on the busy thoroughfare and recommend ways to improve it.
Several potential changes could spur some controversy. One would involve closing the main entrance to the Broadway Shopping Center and expanding the secondary entrance near Governor’s Restaurant. That is in part because the current shopping center entrance and exit is across from, but not directly across from, the exit to McDonald’s, and the signals and turning patterns at both exits lead to problems
Theriault said the current shopping plaza entrance, if abandoned, could become a developable plot.
Another problem area is around the intersection of Center Street, I-95 and Earle Avenue.
Theriault said the city likely would restripe Broadway in this area, changing the southbound lane to have a left turn lane, through lane and right turn lane, rather than allowing two lanes to go straight and then merge. The slight right onto Center Street would be eliminated.
Another recommendation for that area was a roundabout, but several city councilors balked at the mention of that idea, as it would involve removing several private properties and incurring significant costs.
In some high-crash spots, the city could ban left-hand turns onto Broadway to prevent vehicles from trying to cross multiple lanes of traffic. Theriault cited Earle Avenue as an example.
Dana Wardwell, Bangor’s public works director, said the city estimates it could spend up to $500,000 per year on the work, but the amount that’s actually put toward the effort would be determined each year during the budget process.
The Maine and federal transportation departments also likely will play a key role in funding some of the changes, especially ones in high crash locations, such as the area around the Center Street intersection.
Next year, the city would retime and coordinate traffic signals, as well as mill and repave the road. Over the next three years, the city will implement some minor changes and continue planning for the larger scale projects.
The city also expects to open talks with Husson University about a new entrance onto Broadway that would take some traffic off Husson Avenue. That entrance would be funded by the university.
The work plan also includes pedestrian improvements, such as repaving sidewalks, adding a crosswalk at School Street and providing more shoulder space for bicycles.
“This is a long-term improvement, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we can even move forward,” Theriault said.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.