Officials from the city of Bangor and from several community organizations have been working on a number of efforts aimed at making Bangor a more walkable and bikeable city that’s more accessible to people of all levels of mobility.
Last month, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine installed temporary bollards at the ends of two busy crosswalks on Harlow Street; one in front of City Hall, and one in front of the Bangor Public Library. The bollards — white plastic posts that are glued to the pavement — narrow the street slightly and are meant to keep cars from speeding through those crosswalks. They will come down in early November, before the first snow flies in earnest.
City Engineer John Theriault thinks that, at least initially, the bollards have worked.
“We want those busy crosswalks to be very visible to drivers. I think it does do its job, which is to make folks slow down,” Theriault said. “The Bicycle Coalition will be surveying folks over the winter to see if people liked it, and then if the response is positive, we would consider doing a bump-out on the curb that mirrors where the bollards are now.”
Intersection of pavement
Just up the street from the temporary bollards, another project will redo a poorly designed intersection to make it more pedestrian-friendly and better direct the flow of car traffic.
The intersection, located up the hill from City Hall and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, isn’t so much an intersection as a wide-open swath of pavement between Park, Center and Somerset streets. For the past month, city crews have been redesigning the area to reduce the amount of open space and lessen confusion for pedestrians and drivers.
“When you get into that intersection, you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. If you’re walking across the street, you’re in the road for a long time,” Theriault said. “What we’re doing is kind of pinching in all the corners of the roadway, so that there’s less open, useless space.”
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When the work is done later this fall, the curbs will be extended in front of the First Baptist Church of Bangor, in front of the building that houses Wicked Brew Cafe and on the backside of the building that houses One Lupine Fiber Arts. Crews plan to install grass and landscaping on those curbs, and will install decorative light posts, like the ones in the rest of downtown.
“That area is a part of downtown, and it needs to look that way,” Theriault said.
In the process, two parking spaces will be lost on Center Street, and the First Baptist Church will only be able to access its driveway by coming up Center Street from Harlow Street.
Joshua Chamberlain Bridge
More projects that increase pedestrian and bicycle accessibility are planned for 2020. The cities of Bangor and Brewer were each approved for state funding for a project that would fix the sidewalks on the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge on both sides of the river, and would install a crosswalk at the entrance to the bridge on the Bangor side. The state will pay for approximately three-quarters of the total cost of the project, and the two cities will pay for the rest.
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“Right now, there are steps to get up onto the sidewalk in Bangor, which makes it pretty much impossible for a wheelchair or walker to get onto the bridge,” Theriault said. “I think back when the bridge was constructed, things like that just weren’t a concern. But that’s something we’re very concerned about now. We need to improve the connection between Bangor and Brewer.”
The city will construct a ramp on the Bangor side, and will install a new crosswalk with flashing lights at Union Street and Gallagher Place, the approximately 300-foot access road that runs along the backside of the Bangor House. It will also, as part of the project, fix the ramp that connects Summer Street to the bridge, to make it less steep for bikers and walkers. Work on the project will begin in spring 2020.
Mall-area bike trail
Another project that Theriault estimates will begin in spring 2020 is the construction of a new bike trail near Eastern Maine Community College. The trail, dubbed Trail Five, will connect Sylvan Road with Stillwater Avenue, running roughly parallel to Interstate 95 before crossing under the highway. It will allow the rest of Bangor to more easily access the mall area by foot or by bike. City engineers had hoped to begin work on the project this year, but due to the number of easements needed to begin construction, it is now expected to begin in the spring.