Cape Elizabeth intersection to get minor safety improvements

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Although the Town Council wants to improve safety at the intersection of Bowery Beach Road and Spurwink Avenue, no major changes are likely in the foreseeable future.

But the council has decided to implement some minor changes at the intersection, including a crosswalk and new signs.

Councilors heard a report Dec. 14 from engineers Steve Harding and Steve Sawyer of Sebago Technics on the safety of the intersection near the Spurwink Church, which was a council goal this year. They decided they will look at small improvements, such as cutting back brush and putting up more signs. 

The engineers said the problems with the intersection include limited sight distance, pedestrian traffic at the top of Spurwink Road, and the curve of Bowery Beach Road (Route 77), which is “sharper than expected for a design speed of 35 miles per hour.”

They reported there have been four accidents at the intersection over the past three years, which isn’t enough to be classified as high risk by the Maine Department of Transportation. There must be at least eight crashes within three years for MDOT to say an intersection requires attention.

“My suspicion is that this, like many coastal routes, has lots of curves and turns and people here are accustomed to driving it, which is probably why we don’t see more of a history in terms of crashes than actually seems to be documented,” Sawyer said.

The engineers had ideas for both major and minor ways the safety of the intersection can be improved.

The biggest change they suggested is to realign the road, and change the radius of the Bowery Beach Road curve from 150 feet to 340 feet, which would push the intersection out 30 feet. This would require purchasing 3,000 feet of adjacent land, which is owned by the Sprague Corp.

They also suggested that the stop bar painted at the top of Spurwink Avenue be moved so the Spurwink Church doesn’t obstruct drivers’ views.

“If the intersection was realigned, there would be an increase in both driver comfort and in safety due to the adjustment of the stop bar on Spurwink Avenue,” the engineers said in their report.

Because the intersection isn’t considered dangerous by MDOT’s standards, councilors decided they will start by looking at some of the smaller changes suggested by the engineers. 

“My thoughts are, we could do this in a gradual fashion,” Councilor Sara Lennon said. “I just think those basic things you mention might go a very long way.” 

Town Manager Mike McGovern has forwarded the report from the engineers to the Sprague Corp. and mentioned the possibility of cutting down some of the brush on Sprague’s property to improve sight lines.

“The initial email that came back was indication of a willingness to work with us,” McGovern said.

Councilors said they also want to consider putting up more road signs reminding motorist to slow down and drive with caution on the curve. They also want to paint a crosswalk on Spurwink Road for pedestrians who walk between the Spurwink Church and its parking lot.

It was unclear when the changes would be in place, but councilors said they would like to live with the additions for a year to see if things improve. If safety remains a concern, they will take another look at realigning the intersection.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Some changes will be made to address safety concerns at the intersection of Spurwink Avenue, foreground, and Bowery Beach Road in Cape Elizabeth.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.