Traffic, parking, bump-outs hot topics for Thomaston residents

By Beth A. Birmingham | Sep 15, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Police Chief Tim Hoppe, standing, addresses several issues concerning traffic, speed and crosswalk safety at the Sept. 11 Board of Selectmen's meeting.

Thomaston — More than 15 people attended the Thomaston Board of Selectmen's meeting Sept. 11, with many sharing concerns about the speed of traffic, inept parking, and unsightly crosswalk bump-outs along the redesigned Main Street.

New Police Chief Tim Hoppe started the hour-long discussion by informing the audience that he has made some shift changes at the department that he feels will help with the chronic speeding on some of the town's side streets.

"We're constantly trying to change it up a bit every day," Hoppe said, noting an uptick in speeding violations. The cost of a ticket for going one to 14 miles over the speed limit is $185.

Hoppe noted the hot spots for tickets are Water, Hyler, Thatcher, Fish and Knox streets.

He explained how his department monitors a particular street for about an hour, looking at speed from a distance. He said Maine law doesn't allow traffic summonses to be issued without an officer witnessing the offense.

He said he had been using a device, shared by the county Emergency Management Agency, that would allow him to catch more speeders.

"It was a visual reminder", Hoppe said of the mobile cameras that had been used throughout the town. Speed bumps were suggested to alleviate the issue on several of the side streets.

Selectman Lee-Ann Upham explained speed bumps have been discussed several times in years past, but the issue of heavy equipment going over them and lopping the top off always was the deciding factor.

Resident Peter Schiot offered a list of approximately 50 different types of speed bumps he had learned about from talking to a designer in Florida. Some of them can even be moved with a backhoe, he noted.

Parking on Main Street was the next topic, with two issues: back-in parking and the fact that the crosswalk bump-outs take up too much space.

Hoppe said when there was pull-in parking, there were more accidents from having to back out.

"People park every which way," resident Mary Griffin said. "It's crazy." She passed around several enlarged photographs of various vehicles and their parking jobs.

Davene Fahy turned in a petition to have the back-in parking returned to pull-in. "Nobody is parking there and it's hurting businesses. It's not the right thing to do," she said.

Upham said it has been hard for older residents to make the switch mentally, and reminded people of the vast parking area in the back of the business block.

Thomaston currently is the only town that has back-in parking in Maine. Fahy said she would get in touch with State Rep. John Spear (D-South Thomaston) to see what can be done.

Selectman Pete Lammert said there is a catch-22 with the crosswalks, especially putting the signal lights on blinking at 4 p.m. "It negates the crosswalk signs, because they do not work any longer. So someone has to do something with that," he said.

Hoppe said the police department no longer controls the signals, but he has been in contact with Lane Construction and something is in the works.

Another concern was the visibility of the new crosswalks, and Hoppe reported Maine Department of Transportation will not paint them until the last of the paving is done, which should occur within the next month.

"It is a safety issue," he agreed.

As for the bump-outs at the crosswalks, Lammert said it was meant as a "traffic calming" device, according DOT.

"They don't make sense," one resident said, noting they take away parking spaces and are not inviting.

Select Board Chairman Greg Hamlin said DOT planned the project for nearly three years, and nothing was brought up. "I don't think any of us expected it to be that big."

"What a disappointment," resident Nancy Baker said. "If we can't change it, can we at least let them know it's a deterrent?"

At a meeting of the downtown business owners in June 2016, Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy explained the project's original plan had not included the center of town, but DOT agreed to include it at the suggestion of Town Manager Valmore Blastow.

"Val was instrumental in insisting that we needed to improve the safety through here and that we needed a better set of traffic lights — not these ones that came over on the Mayflower," Fancy said then.

The plan outlined having 8-foot bump-outs on either side of Main Street where crosswalks would allow for a shorter distance of foot travel, and the new traffic lights would be geared to keep traffic flowing while also allowing safe pedestrian crossing.

The crosswalk at Knox Street was moved to allow for safer crossing, as was the crosswalk in front of Thomaston Academy.

Residents in attendance at the Sept. 11 meeting wanted assurance that the issues discussed would be dealt with.

Since 2010, MDOT has worked with town officials and residents to develop a sensitive solution planning process for the Route 1 reconstruction project.

"It's not that we don't have any weight with DOT; it's how they designed this," Hamlin said, "What I've been telling people is, let's wait and let them get their $7.3 million project done. Then I think we can switch it back."

"We have time to think about it," Upham said. "I have a good feeling about this."

Other business

The board approved a request from Lammert to restrict traffic on Erin Street to no through truck traffic. Hoppe said he would contact MDOT for signage.

Lammert had also requested the stop sign at Gleason and Pine streets be relocated. However, after further discussion, the board voted to make that intersection a four-way stop.

The board tabled a discussion on setting a joint meeting with Owls Head and South Thomaston regarding the Transfer Station.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Alan Jeffrey LaVallee | Sep 19, 2017 09:40

http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/09/12/skowhegan-to-deploy-roadway-speed-tables-to-calm-traffic/



Posted by: Peter Hill | Sep 17, 2017 09:47

Re: Back in Parking.  Would you rather back out blindly into speeding traffic? If a large van or pickup is next to you, you simply cannot see approaching traffic. It's so much safer this new way. It's done all around the country... we just need to get used to it.

 



Posted by: Gwen D Fraser | Sep 16, 2017 09:33

The Back In parking is MORE dangerous than pull-in becuause it requires al traffic to stop when someone wants to park.  As opposed to pull in where it is the responsibility of the parker to wait until it is safe to pull out.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 15, 2017 16:12

Maybe not perfect but Thomaston looks pretty nice with all the granite curbing and nice sidewalks.



Posted by: BETSY A FEYLER | Sep 15, 2017 15:04

 

What about the SPEEDERS on Fluker St.  They get a free pass.

 



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