CAPE ELIZABETH — Residents this week had mixed views about a new traffic pattern at the Recycling Center.
The new pattern, which no longer allows drivers to back up to the trash hopper, went into effect Jan. 21. It includes four diagonal parking spaces outside of the trash compacter building, as suggested by consultants from Portland-based engineering firm Woodard and Curran in a safety evaluation last month.
“It’s a much better way to do things,” Cape Elizabeth resident Ernie Merritt said Wednesday, Jan. 28. “It’s definitely safer.”
The new pattern went into effect after former Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, 79, was killed on Nov. 24, 2014, when he was hit by a car and knocked into the two-story hopper. Christine Sharp-Lopez, 72, was backing into the hopper area when she struck Dennison.
Police Chief Neil Williams on Jan. 21 said the Cumberland County district attorney will not seek criminal charges against Sharp-Lopez.
Merritt went on to say that while the new traffic pattern is “one heck of an improvement,” it still may not be the safest way to protect people from being struck by vehicles.
“The only problem I see is people driving in where people are walking across,” he said.
Colby Pearson agreed with Merritt, although he said the new pattern is “just as dangerous as before.”
“To be honest, I think it’s almost more of an aggravation because you have to walk across merging traffic to get to the hopper,” Pearson said.
Others also said it would be just as easy for an accident to happen with the new traffic pattern.
“Now we have to watch out for being run over by cars moving forward,” John Clark said. “I don’t know if that’s the best plan a high-tech engineering firm could come up with.”
Woodard and Curran also suggested two alternatives, but Town Manager Mike McGovern and the consultants said they wouldn’t be as safe.
At a Jan. 5 Town Council meeting, some councilors said it may be dangerous for people to walk back and forth to the hopper as cars pull into parking spots, but Woodard and Curran engineer Randy Tome disagreed. He said the set-up is very similar “to any parking lot you operate in.”
Some residents on Jan. 28 said they agreed with the firm that the new pattern is safer than before.
“Basically, I think it’s safer because no one’s backing up,” Lee Kimball said. “For now it works.”
“For now” is what McGovern has emphasized.
On Jan. 5 he said the new traffic pattern is a short-term solution. He said he expects the town to implement a more thorough, permanent change to the Recycling Center within a year and half.
McGovern also said some small changes may happen in the interim, but that the town won’t do anything major until it is certain the changes will work.
Resident Kelly Gordon said she believes this a good approach. While she said the new pattern is “fine” and “doesn’t inconvenience me,” she said time will tell whether it’s actually an effective and safe way to move traffic through the center.
“I think it’s too new,” Gordon said. “I think you need time to assess it properly.”
The new traffic pattern at the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center prohibits drivers from backing up to drop off trash. Now they must park diagonally in front of the hopper building and walk in their trash.