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Topsham selectmen opt for Middlesex Road safety improvements instead of speed change

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Topsham selectmen opt for Middlesex Road safety improvements instead of speed change

TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 June 18 against asking the Maine Department of Transportation to reduce the Middlesex Road speed limit.

However, the board voted unanimously to have town staff look into safety improvements, such as a new crosswalk, intersection signs and cutting shrubs along the road to improve visibility.

The discussion was prompted by a June 9 letter from Paula Radulski of Pitch Pine Drive. Radulski said the intersection between her street and Middlesex is a blind one. She said her vehicle had nearly been rear-ended as she traveled south and that she had almost been hit when entering the street heading north.

While the speed limit is 40 mph, many drivers travel faster than that, Radulski said, arguing that the limit is too fast for a residential area, where pedestrians and bicyclists travel along the shoulder. She asked that the speed limit be reduced to 30 mph.

"Pedestrians are crossing this road to enter other neighborhoods such as the Arbor Avenue neighborhood, Bay Park, Loop Road, etc.," Radulski wrote. "It is often difficult for people who live on Middlesex Road to enter or exit their own driveways due to the speed of the traffic."

Radulski also asked the board to add a crosswalk and flashing lights, and to extend the sidewalks.

"I would hate to lose a child who is walking/biking/scootering/driving to the library, a friend's home, etc., because the town has failed to address this dangerous street/intersection," Radulski wrote. "We have the capacity to change this to make it safer. Please work to address this hazardous issue before we have lost a citizen/child on this street."

Selectman Sandra Consolini, who lives in Bay Park, noted people have a tendency to drive faster than the posted speed.

"With lowering the speed and knowing that they're going to go more than the speed, it will end up being comfortable on Middlesex," Consolini said.

Police Chief Tim Young said his officers have been conducting traffic enforcement in the area, but that "they haven't stopped an awful lot of people."

He explained, too, that when a municipality requests a speed limit change from DOT, the agency makes its own determination of what the limit should be. Most areas with that density of homes have a 45 mph limit, he said, noting that if the agency actually found the limit should be raised to 45, the town would have to abide by that decision.

"You've got to be careful in trying to get speeds changed," Young said.

Selectman Steve Edmondson, who served on the Police Department for 26 years, said "there isn't a street or road in this town where residents on the street don't feel that there is a speeding problem, perceived or otherwise. That's just the name of the game. It's your street; you don't want the cars going fast."

He suggested what he called inexpensive quick fixes for people trying to drive in or out of Pitch Pine Drive, such as signs on either end of Middlesex indicating that there is an intersection ahead, and that pedestrians are walking. He also supported a crosswalk in the vicinity of Arbor Avenue and Pitch Pine Drive, and trimming the hedges on the north side of the Pitch Pine Drive intersection, which he said blocks the view of traffic on Middlesex.

Edmondson said he believes 40 mph is a reasonable speed limit.

The motion to have the town contact DOT about reviewing the road and considering lowering the speed limit failed 3-2, with Edmondson, Jim Trusiani and Ron Riendeau in the majority and Consolini and Michelle Derr in the minority.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.