Cape Elizabeth may change Recycling Center traffic pattern; OUI not suspected in fatal accident

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Town Manager Michael McGovern on Monday said he hopes to have new traffic and parking patterns in place within a month at the town’s Recycling Center after receiving recommendations to improve safety.

The study by engineers from Portland-based Woodard & Curran was ordered after the Nov. 24 accident at the center that killed retired Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, 79, who was hit by a car.

Also Monday, Police Chief Neil Williams said tests indicated alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

McGovern said he and Public Works Director Bob Malley agreed the best approach to prevent another accident is to prevent vehicles from entering the compactor area. Instead, four diagonal parking spots will be created in front of the building.

“Users would have to carry their trash the short distance from the back of their vehicles to the hopper,” McGovern said. “They would then drive out moving forward with no backing up at all.”

The assessment prepared by engineers Randy Tome and Megan McDevitt presented three alternatives to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety at the Dennison Drive center.

McGovern plans to review the report with town councilors at a workshop on Jan. 5, 2015, with information to be mailed to households a week later. The changes would be in place by Jan. 21.

The new patterns would affect three commercial waste haulers, McGovern said. The lack of vehicle access would force them to truck waste to the ecomaine facility in Portland.

McGovern said he was meeting with the haulers Monday to review the changes.

Tome and McDevitt also suggested two alternatives: allowing vehicles to back in to the compactor area, or creating three lanes allowing vehicles to pull along side the compactor area.

But, their report said, “Woodard & Curran recommends (diagonal parking access) as the best of the three alternatives with respect to both safety and functionality of the facility.”

As currently set up, the compactor and hopper area has room for three vehicles to back in and park. The hopper is in the bottom of a two-story shed.

Tome and McDevitt also recommended better protection above the 44-inch retaining wall at the top of the hopper. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates fall protection for hazards of at least four feet (48 inches).

“OSHA, however, is specifically written for the safety of employers and employees,” the report said while suggesting the town conform to International Building Code standards requiring protection for fall hazards of 30 inches or more.

Police investigation

Williams on Dec. 17 attributed the accident that killed Dennison to driver error. Dennison was walking to the compactor area when he was struck and knocked into the trash hopper by a Ford Explorer driven by Christine Sharp-Lopez, 72.

Williams said a full accident report has not been received, but he was aware it concluded there was no vehicle malfunction. He continued to believe, he said, that Sharp-Lopez apparently stepped on the Explorer’s accelerator instead of on the brake pedal.

On Monday, he said he has been told tests of Sharp-Lopez’s blood-alcohol level indicated she was not operating under the influence of alcohol. Police are expected to send the results of their investigation to the Cumberland County district attorney, who will decide if charges will be filed against Sharp-Lopez.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Engineers are recommending diagonal parking and no vehicle access to the trash hopper and compactor area at the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.