Drivers and walkers frustrated at traffic lights’ duration downtown have been going against them, Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons told selectmen in his report for the board’s July 20 meeting.
Simmons’ report, released July 15, said he has gotten many complaints about the lights’ length. He said he has learned the state lengthened them to aid Route 1 traffic flow.
That is also what Maine Department of Transportation explained to Wiscasset Newspaper via phone and email responses Monday. Traffic engineer Stephen Landry said, since last year’s work, MDOT has kept monitoring traffic and working with the town to ensure “a good balance between vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Our charge was to make changes to allow more through-put on Route 1 to reduce backups. (To) do that, we had to extend the ... time the light stays green on Route 1.
“Keeping Route 1 traffic moving means longer waits for vehicles on side streets and pedestrians,” Landry continued. “During peak summer traffic, pedestrians may have to wait as long as three minutes. We recognize that may seem like a long time ... but we’re trying to avoid 30-minute vehicle backups on Route 1. We’re still working to strike the right balance.”
Simmons said it is frustrating for people waiting, and some are going against the light, posing a safety hazard and forcing other drivers to stop. He said the state may add a timer that counts down the wait time. In a July 8 selectmen’s workshop, he also remarked on MDOT’s new setup with bollards at Main Street Pier. “It’s not going to help anything. It’s going to make it worse,” he predicted.
Wiscasset Newspaper asked Sprague’s Lobster owner Frank Sprague Monday if his longtime food stand at the pier has seen a difference in business since the bollards went up. He said it is down about 30% and people are complaining about the new setup, parts of which have gotten knocked down, he added.
Landry said MDOT added the bollards after seeing backups due to vehicles turning into the pier parking lot. Landry said those backups seem to result in pedestrians crossing north of the railroad tracks.
“When pedestrians cross at mid-block crossings, they stop traffic. Once traffic stops, it takes a while for the whole line of traffic to start moving again,” Landry said. He said the bollards’ point is to limit where traffic can turn and to get people to use the parking MDOT created on side streets on both sides of Route 1 and then “use the lights to cross the roadway in a safe and orderly manner that will minimize disruptions to Route 1 traffic.”
To get to the pier from the north, turn right onto Railroad Avenue and then take a side street to reach the traffic lights, Landry said. Motorists leaving the pier and wanting to go south on Route 1 should turn right onto northbound Route 1, cross Donald E. Davey Bridge and find a place to turn around in Edgecomb, Landry said. “I don’t have a recommended place. I think it’s going to be whatever’s the safest.”