Woolwich residents want traffic light to stay

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 7:30am

    Woolwich residents like the idea of making a traffic signal at the Route 1/Nequasset Road intersection permanent but urged Maine Department of Transportation officials to add turning lanes here to improve driver safety. Discussion of the traffic light took center stage at Tuesday’s night’s informational meeting that included an update on the Station 46 bridge replacement project. Also discussed were planned improvements at the intersection of George Wright and Nequasset roads.

    The traffic light installed earlier this year was supposed to be temporary during construction of the new Station 46 Bridge, but when Selectman Jason Shaw asked the 50 or so residents assembled in the Woolwich Central School gym if they wanted it to stay, almost every hand went up in approval.

    “That’s why we wanted to have this meeting, to let them know how you felt about the traffic signal,” said Shaw, nodding to Devin Eaton, an MDOT senior project manager.

    Eaton acknowledged among the improvements traffic engineers are considering at the busy intersection are adding a protected right hand turn in Route 1’s northbound lane. In response to concerns about the present light turning too quickly, Robert Skehan, MDOT safety manager, said the traffic signal’s timing cycle could be adjusted to better coincide with the traffic flow.

    Another area of concern was at the opposite end of Nequasset Road at the George Wright Road intersection located at the bottom hill just past the municipal building. Eaton said if the state decides to permanently close the southern end of George Wright Road, MDOT would be willing to help the town make improvements here that include widening the turning radius and improving the road grade. He said the town would need to assume the cost of removing trees and relocating a septic system here.

    Eaton said both projects would likely coincide with the construction of the new Station 46 Bridge which is set to be completed in 2024 or 2025. Eaton is overseeing the Station 46 bridge project. He told the audience construction of the new bridge can begin now that the old structure has been taken down and removed.

    The new bridge will have three concrete piers holding it up; the former one had eight. The new one will have a steel frame and seamless concrete decking designed to better resist salt erosion; just north of it, also on Route 1, the state is replacing two culverts with a new 85-foot span, to be called Pleasant Cove Bridge. Eaton said this second bridge is being constructed to address road flooding that takes place here during extreme high tides and severe storms. He said plans include raising the Route 1 roadway here five feet from its lowest point, and the new structure will better facilitate tidal flow into a salt marsh on the western side of the highway.

    Keeping the traffic signal following completion of the projects would result in the state permanently closing the southern end of George Wright Road where it links up with Route 1, added Eaton.