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The city of Bangor is considering a series of changes to improve the safety along a busy section of Broadway where drivers exit from and enter Interstate 95, a short corridor a fifth of a mile long that has seen dozens of crashes in recent years.
An outside engineering firm has recommended relocating an Interstate 95 on-ramp and remaking how drivers can reach two residential roads from Broadway, changes meant to minimize the chances of vehicles crashing into each other or gumming up traffic. More than 80 crashes were reported along that corridor between 2015 and 2017, according to a recent analysis by the Maine Department of Transportation.
Among the proposed changes recommended by Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers, the city hopes to prohibit drivers from making left-hand turns from Broadway onto a residential road, Earle Avenue, and from Earle Avenue back out onto Broadway. It would do so by adding new signs and installing a small traffic island at the end of Earle Avenue that would force drivers to make only right-hand turns there.
The city could make that particular change as early as next summer, according to City Engineer John Theriault, who said the designs are still in a preliminary phase.
But the city may not be able to launch the rest of the proposed improvements until 2022 or 2023, as they will depend on state funding that currently isn’t available, Theriault said.
The city has held two public hearings on the proposed changes so far and plans to hold a final one on Thursday at 5 p.m. in City Hall.
The total area affected by the changes would stretch between Broadway’s two intersections with the exit and entrance ramps to Interstate 95.
Besides closing off Earle Avenue to left-hand turns, the city would move the on-ramp to Interstate 95 southbound so that it is more aligned with the exit ramp from I-95 southbound on the other side of Broadway, and turning drivers would have to spend less time in the intersection.
The changes would also eliminate the so-called slip lane that allows drivers heading toward downtown Bangor on Broadway to veer right onto Center Street, which is opposite the entrance to Interstate 95 northbound. Instead, drivers would be forced to arrive at the intersection and then turn right onto Center Street, which runs behind St. Joseph Hospital.
The city has been pursuing the proposed changes after an outside firm identified the Broadway corridor as congested and dangerous in a 2015 study.
Since then, the city has made some changes that were meant to improve its safety and efficiency, including repaving the stretch of Broadway from Center Street to Husson Avenue and re-timing its traffic signals. It also stopped drivers from making left turns from Broadway onto Alden Street, which is near the ramps to Interstate 95 southbound. A ConvenientMD walk-in clinic is located at that intersection.
At least one local business owner disagrees with some of the proposed changes that will be discussed Thursday night.
Paul Winkler, the co-owner of Tri-City Pizza at the intersection of Center Street and Broadway, expressed concern that they could make it harder for large emergency response vehicles to access Earle Avenue or Center Street.
He also said that the changes along Broadway in recent years already seem to be improving safety in that area.
“I’m not opposed to the principal” of the changes,” Winkler said, “as long as it doesn’t restrict the flow of emergency vehicles getting back there.”