Archive for November, 2009

Payne Road solution approved, funding an issue

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

By David Harry
Staff Writer

Plans to alleviate congestion at two Route 1 intersections will soon be submitted to the agency that provides funding for such projects.
But according to Paul Niehoff, a transportation planner with the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, it will be a while before rubber hits the newly improved road.
On Oct. 21, town councilors approved 6-1 a resolution calling for an amended plan to improve the intersections at Dunstan Corner while also improving the intersection of Haigis Parkway and Route 1, which is about two miles north.
The plan calls for additional left turn lanes from northbound Route 1 to Broadturn Road and Haigis Parkway, an extended turn lane from southbound Route 1 to Pine Point Road, additional right turn lanes to Route 1 from Pine Point Road and Haigis Parkway, and altering a plan to reduce traffic on Payne Road in favor of Route 1 and Haigis Parkway.
The last portion of the proposal provides the most dramatic change to plans Town Planner Dan Bacon said have been considered since 2002.
Efforts to reduce traffic on Payne Road by 20 percent could lead to the construction of a connecting road from Route 1 beginning to the north of Dunstan Corner restaurant.
The proposed road would arc behind the restaurant and end at Payne Road instead of an original idea to have the connector road meet with Payne Road further north at a point across Phelps Brook, said traffic engineer Bill Bray.
The change in routing the connector road reduces the cost of work in the area from at least $6.1 million to about $3 million and could allow for funding $2 million of improvements to the Haigis Parkway and Route 1 intersection.
“That intersection will fail in 2015 if you don’t do anything,” Bray said Route 1 and Haigis Parkway, because increased traffic in the area will lead to traffic jams caused in part by turning traffic lined up.
By adding a second left turn lane from northbound Route 1 and right and left turn lanes from Haigis Parkway to Route 1, traffic jams can be alleviated, Bray said.
The resolution supports a plan that puts an end to the idea of closing one end of Payne Road. That possibility was discussed by a committee formed by councilor Ron Ahlquist last winter in response to complaints about congestion and speeding on Payne Road.
Closing Payne Road at its southern end was opposed by business owners and some residents, including Jack Flaherty of Flaherty Family Farms, who feared the loss of traffic would put him out of business.
Ahlquist’s contention that Payne Road is primarily a residential road was disputed, and the council has temporarily set aside discussions of what can be done to control traffic on Payne Road.
In May 2008, the town received a $180,000 grant from PACTS to begin traffic studies at Dunstan Corner, and Town Manager Tom Hall said $60,000 to $70,000 in matching town money is committed to the study. With the submission of the plans to PACTS, a study by engineers with the Maine Department of Transportation can begin.
Because PACTS officials made the grant to study the intersection, Niehoff said funding the construction work in the next biannual budget cycle starting in fiscal year 2011 was a strong possibility.
But there are 15 towns, from Freeport to the north, Biddeford to the south and Gorham to the west, competing for PACTS grants, which totaled about $14 million in the current biennial budget, Niehoff said.
Projects funded by PACTS usually use about 65 percent federal highway funds, 10 percent state highway funds and the rest in local money, Niehoff said.
Even then, Niehoff said, buying the rights of way and getting the permits to build the roads can take a long time.
“It could take a few years,” Niehoff said about construction work starting.
The resolution passed by a 6-1 vote with Councilor Karen D’Andrea opposing it. It was a decision she said troubled her because she would not be happy voting for or against it.
“We should be looking at ways to lessen traffic through public transportation infrastructure,” D’Andrea said before her vote.

Sherriff Investigating rash of Lakes Region Burglaries

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

NAPLES, Maine — The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department is warning people in the Lakes Region about a rash of motor vehicle burglaries.Since Oct. 29, the department has received 26 complaints from car owners in the towns of Casco, Gray, Standish, Raymond with the majority happening in Naples.Officials said in most cases the vehicles were unlocked while parked at home.Two hunting rifles, from separate victims, were among the stolen items.No arrests have been made.The sheriff’s department asks that if you have any information that can help them solve these crimes, to call them at 774-1444.

Family bike trips in Standish and Windham Maine

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

maine TransportationEven after a few of years of biking with my kids, who are now 11 and 13 years old, I am still not a fan of road riding, even when there are wide shoulders. Since I would like to enjoy myself and not stress about cars whizzing by, I have been motivated to find trails that keep my family off the motorized roadways. Luckily, we live in Maine, where there are several off-road (not to be confused with mountain biking) trails for my family to enjoy a stress-free day on two wheels.

A formerly packed gravel trail, the 5.7 miles of the Mountain Division Trail from Standish to Windham is now paved, and offers a smooth easy ride. The 0.9-mile Jeep trail in Standish connecting the Johnson Field trail head to the Mountain Division Trail is still packed gravel, but the trail heads in Gorham and Windham have paved trail spurs. There is one big hill near Otter Pond (on the Jeep trail in Standish) that younger bikers may choose to walk their bikes up (or down) because it’s a bit steep. But once at the pavement by the rails, it’s a fairly level trail.

There are four road crossings from Standish to Windham, and all but one are quiet roads (one road may take a couple of minutes to cross because of fast-moving cars). There are a lot of benches at various points along the trail for water breaks and picnic lunches.

Very often, we share the trail with horses (near the Johnson Field trail head), and my kids think that makes this trail extra special. For mountain bikers, the trail continues over Route 202 in Windham to Bridge Street in Westbrook on a rough gravel surface.

TRAIL: Mountain Division Trail
LENGTH: 5.7 miles one way
TOWNS: Standish, Gorham and Windham
TRAIL HEAD: Johnson Field on Route 35 in Standish, Gambo Recreational Center on Gambo Road in Windham and Shaw Park on Route 237 in Gorham.
BATHROOM: Porta-potty at each trail head
DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes, on a leash.
FUN STOP: The Blue Seal store at the end of the trail on Route 202 in Windham usually has a resident animal in the store (depending on the time of year, it could be baby chicks, bunnies, a lamb, dog or cat). There are also some tasty candy caramels at the counter that are worth the sweet indulgence after a fun ride with the family.
13-YEAR-OLD: “I really like the new pavement. It is sooo easy to ride on now. I also like seeing the horses on this trail. It’s pretty easy except for the giant hill before the railroad tracks. I really like this trail.”
11-YEAR-OLD: “This trail used to be a looooong ride but with the pavement it doesn’t feel so long. I like to see the horses and I like to look at the river. I am also happy I can visit the Blue Seal store because they always have animals to visit. And me and my mom and my sister really like the caramels they sell there.”