3/27/2013 2:00:00 PM Projects Look To Improve Wiscasset Traffic
By Dominik Lobkowicz
Between last year's road safety audit and the current development of the Bath Road Master Plan, traffic on Route 1 in Wiscasset is getting a long, hard look.
The Bath Road Master Plan Steering Committee, which is doing studies and long-term planning for development and traffic in the area of Bath Road (Route 1), held its first public meeting on March 20 to share preliminary findings and get feedback from the community. The scope of the plan covers Bath Road from the Woolwich town line to the northern end of Flood Avenue.
Thomas Errico, a traffic consultant from Tylin International working with the committee, said because traffic improvements can be costly, people looking at future improvements often look 20 to 25 years in the future to determine their overall plans.
The models Errico used for assessing traffic along Bath Road in 2030 assumes employment growth in Wiscasset of 1190 jobs, or a 75 percent increase, and residential growth of about 250 units, or a 15 percent increase.
All that growth is not assured, but looking at the potential changes allows the town and the Department of Transportation to plan for the worst-case scenario of traffic utilization, Errico said.
Some of that growth could come from further growth in the industrial park or at the Mason Station property, he said.
Lincoln County Planner Bob Faunce said the industrial park is the largest developable parcel of land in the entire county, making up about 300 acres.
On Bath Road, there was an average daily traffic of 16,380 vehicles per day in 2011, Errico said. With growth, that could be closer to to 20,000 in 2030, he said.
The traffic models also show that if the larger intersections along Bath Road - with Route 144, the entrance to Shaw's Supermarket, the two ends of Old Bath Road, and Birch Point Road - are not adapted to meet the change in volume, they all will rate an "F - over capacity" by level of service standards, Errico said.
Two of those intersections, the Shaw's entrance and the north end of Old Bath Road, already have the F rating, over capacity, but there are better and worse Fs, Errico said. Without improvements, those would become the worse kind, he said.
The intersections with Birch Point Road and Route 144 both have ratings of "E - approaching congestion," and the southern end of Old Bath Road is rated "D - normally no congestion." D ratings or better are usually considered acceptable, Errico said.
Because the town of Wiscasset and the DOT do not want the functionality of the roadways to prevent development from coming to town, they are planning ahead for the growth, he said.
The current analysis is that the entire Bath Road corridor will never need more than one through lane in either direction, but a center turning lane can provide a safe way to reduce congestion in both entering and exiting entrances, Errico said.
According to the presentation, one option being considered is having a center turning lane run from near the Miss Wiscasset Diner to Birch Point road, with the exception of a section near the power lines down hill from Ames Supply and various islands throughout.
The committee is also considering the idea of street networks, such as new back roads that would run parallel to Bath Road, behind existing developments. The roads could provide access to more developable plots while helping protect the flow of through traffic by using a few intersections for access instead of many entrances on Bath Road, Errico said.
Errico outlined several potential improvements for the major intersections as well, including dedicated turning lanes and traffic signals. The improvements would be based on future needs, and certain legal requirements have to be met before a traffic signal could be installed, he said.
The committee will continue to study the issue and incorporate feedback about the issue and bring a final draft plan before the public again for further input before finalizing the master plan, Errico said.
Projects from the road safety audit
Gerry Audibert, a member of the committee and a special projects engineer for DOT, said the DOT has gotten some funding for planned traffic improvements related to the road safety audit last year. Those projects pertain to the area of Route 1 from the Woolwich town line to the intersection of Route 1 with Route 27 in Edgecomb.
Changes include the addition of traffic signals at the intersections of Route 1 with Water Street and Route 27 in Wiscasset, and with Route 27 in Edgecomb, Audibert said in an interview on Jan 22.
Middle Street and Water Street would both be changed to one-ways, with both halves of Middle Street headed away from Route 1 and both halves of Water Street headed toward Route 1, Audibert said.
Pedestrian improvements such as new sidewalks, crosswalks, and a pedestrian warning light are also planned for the village area, he said.
At the March 20 meeting, Audibert said he is hoping to come back to the area at some point in the spring to talk about the upcoming traffic changes planned for the Wiscasset village area.