BRUNSWICK — Plans for the second phase of major renovations to Bowdoin College’s Whittier Field and a new 9,000-square-foot athletic center have been approved.
The approval came after college officials and their engineering firm, Sebago Technics, made presentations to the Planning Board at its March 27, and after the Town Council voted to discontinue Pine Street last December to make way for the new facility.
To account for the partial closure of the street, Bowdoin’s proposal includes having the college build a new road to connect the remaining open portion of Pine Street to Bath Road.
The application was approved 4-1, with board member Gary Ballerini opposed, because the plan does not include an extension of a two-way left turn lane on Bath Road.
The left turn lane was recommended by Public Works Director and Town Engineer John Foster for an added measure of safety at the intersection, but disputed by abutters who were afraid it would invite more people to use the new street as a cut-through.
An alternative to the left turn lane would be widening the right-hand lane on Bath Road to allow cars to pass others waiting to make a left-hand turn.
Planner Jared Woolston said preliminary traffic studies showed the turn lane “wasn’t really necessary,” but the plans state it would “allow thru traffic to safely bypass vehicles waiting to make a left turn on to Pine Street.”
The other condition added to the plans was the addition of road signs reading “No Thru Traffic” to be placed on the new connector road.
Instead of extending the left turn lane, the board voted to conduct traffic studies at six months and a year after construction is done to determine if the left-turn lane or other traffic calming measures should be installed.
Chairman Charlie Frizzle advocated for waiting to extend the turn lane, saying observing the impact of the road would allow the board to make an “informed decision.”
“I don’t want to put myself in the position of a traffic engineer and know whether a dedicated left turn lane, or widening or whatever the answer is as far as that turn off Bath Road is concerned,” Frizzle said. “I would suggest that we approve this as presented tonight, without making a formal recommendation to making a left turn lane or widening, but require that traffic counts and studies be done not only on Bath Road (but) also on this new road as well.”
Ballerini disputed the idea, saying the potential for cars traveling from Bath Road to rear-end cars looking to turn left on to Pine Street is too high. In the winter especially, he said, drivers may be unable to see the lines on the road, which could provide a hazard without a formal turn lane.
“That’s why I lean towards putting this left-hand turn lane in at this point in time, especially with the fact that the town engineer has supported it as strongly as he has,” he said.
According to the plans, the new athletic complex will include locker rooms, restrooms for patrons, equipment storage, a laundry facility for washing uniforms, and a sports medicine suite.
The second phase of the project also includes adding pedestrian walkways, and an additional 300 bleacher seats to the area, which will complete the bleacher expansion that began last May.
Phase 1 also included building an eight-lane track and turf football and lacrosse field.
When the first phase was approved, Planning Board members also required the college to abide by an ordinance in the residential area that prohibits noise greater than 45 decibels after 8 p.m.
Bowdoin officials also met with abutters several times during the Phase 2 planning process to discuss their concerns.
Regardless, prior to the board’s vote March 27, several abutters aired concerns about cut-through traffic once the new road is built, the clearing of trees during construction, and noise from the fields.
Resident Mark Battle complained of noise from lacrosse practices on the new field in the early evening. He played a recording of the noise for the board.
He added, however, that “things are much better than they would’ve been” without the restrictions the college agreed to include.
Battle, like each of the other residents that spoke, also advocated for traffic signs to discourage cars from cutting through the residential area from Bath Road, and additional traffic calming measures to serve the same purpose.
“My goal is to make a trip through our neighborhood as unenticing as possible,” he said.
Brunswick resident Mark Battle holds his computer to the microphone at the March 27 meeting of the Brunswick Planning Board to play a recording of the noise he hears in his home from lacrosse games at Bowdoin College’s renovated Whittier Field.