OLD TOWN, Maine — Residents who live near Stillwater Avenue and its junctions with Bennoch Road and College Avenue asked that better pedestrian and bicycle paths and better turning options be added to the state’s plans to replace two bridges and improve traffic flow in the area.
The Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System, an organization designated by the federal and state government to carry out transportation planning in Greater Bangor, held a Wednesday meeting at City Hall to get input from the public.
BACTS is conducting a corridor study on Stillwater Avenue between Bennoch Road and College Avenue, which includes two adjacent bridges that span the Stillwater River and two intersections currently controlled by street lights.
Nancy Webb, who lives on nearby Franklin Street, once walked over to the U.S. Post Office on Bennoch Road to get her mail but nowadays drives the two country blocks because she is afraid to cross busy Stillwater Avenue.
“I’ve been nearly hit three times,” she told members of the committee and Gorrill Palmer, a civil engineering firm based in South Portland hired to do the study.
Others at the meeting were also concerned about non-vehicle traffic in the area.
“My concern is pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the bridge,” Kelly Hasselbrack said. “I have tried to cross that bridge on a bike and I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t feel comfortable.”
Al Dickey, who lives on College Avenue, said he likes to walk to McDonald’s to get coffee in the morning and has difficulty getting there.
“There are no sidewalks,” he said. “It’s very dangerous.”
Webb and other residents on Franklin and Spring streets also expressed concerns about turning into traffic on Stillwater and on to Bennoch Road, and how traffic often backs up for miles in both directions on Stillwater Avenue.
One resident suggested a roundabout near the intersections of Bennoch Road and Stillwater Avenue, possibly one that incorporates Spring and Franklin streets.
“Nothing is off the table,” Randall Dunton, senior engineer for Gorrill Palmer, told the group.
He also told the group several times that “there is a lot of room for improvement” with the two traffic signals.
“What we’d like to get is feedback from you folks,” Dunton said at the beginning of the meeting. “What is working, what isn’t — what do you see everyday?”
Dunton said Gorrill Palmer is tasked with creating short-, medium- and long-term traffic improvement plans for BACTS, which has created a local advisory committee made up of residents, city and UMaine officials and business members for input. Another public hearing is planned in April.
City Manager Bill Mayo said local business owners are concerned about the construction and reducing traffic to one lane.
“I had a lot of business owners who called me,” Mayo said. “For at least eight businesses that was their biggest concern.”
The Maine Department of Transportation recently completed a traffic study which found that the primary congestion problem is at the junction of College and Stillwater avenues, BACTS Executive Director Rob Kenerson told the approximately 25 residents at the meeting.
The DOT’s work plan for the next three years includes $5.6 million to replace the two bridges, while another $5 million in funds has been set aside to improve the intersection of Stillwater and College avenues. Kenerson said the project was “a minimum of four years out.”
“We’ve just begun the study,” the BACTS executive director said. “We really want your input. No decisions have been made. Nothing is on paper.”