$500K now available for Bath, Brunswick, other participants in Route 1 planning initiative

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BRUNSWICK — A plan to upgrade the traffic flow and functionality of the Route 1 corridor between Brunswick and Stockton Springs is moving closer to implementation. 

The Gateway 1 land use and transportation initiative was launched four years ago in an effort to create a comprehensive vision for the 20 communities along the corridor, including Bath and Brunswick. On Oct. 19, Edgecomb became the 12th community to sign a start-up agreement, a milestone that triggers $500,000 in state funding for approved projects and planning.

Several other communities have yet to sign the agreement, including Wiscasset, which has long been divided on how to reduce downtown traffic congestion during the summer months without hurting businesses.

Although some consider Wiscasset the poster child for the Gateway 1 initiative, other communities along the corridor face similar problems.

Brunswick, for example, has been trying to address traffic congestion and business access along outer Pleasant Street. The town’s Planning Board has attempted to address problems along the road by restricting left turns into new developments.

However, the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and the Gateway 1 plan, go beyond such stop-gap measures. A potential initiative includes upgrading adjacent roads that run parallel to Pleasant Street. A similar proposal to extend Paul Street to Stanwood Street has been considered before, but failed to generate support because it was attached to a controversial Walgreens pharmacy proposal. 

Other potential Brunswick projects include a Route 1 interchange that would create direct access into Brunswick Naval Air Station – a priority for the agency redeveloping the base, which is slated to close in 2011. 

The Gateway 1 proposal also considers adding lanes to the Route 196 interchange. However, Anna Breinich, the town’s planning and development director, said that project isn’t a priority. 

The Brunswick Town Council and its Pleasant Street Committee have endorsed the Gateway 1 proposal.

In Bath, the plan proposes traffic calming measures near the area where the Route 1 speed limit drops from 55 mph to 35 mph, as well as increased access to commercial development. Bath is also considering park-and-ride and railroad station improvements.

Some of those projects could be among those that share the $500,000 made available by the Maine Department of Transportation. By signing the start-up agreement, Bath and Brunswick will both be represented on the Gateway 1 Corridor Coalition, the regional collaborative that will prioritize which projects are funded by the state. 

The communities that don’t sign the pact – for example, Wiscasset – won’t have a say in which projects receive funding. 

“It is clear that the communities supporting Gateway 1 understand the economic and aesthetic value of maintaining the Mid-Coast quality of place,” Martha Freeman, director of the State Planning Office, said in a press release. “They also understand that this is very difficult to achieve this on a town by town basis and have taken a step forward in safeguarding what makes the Mid-Coast special.”

Participating communities will finalize details of the plan this year before one more round of approvals.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net