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Portland residents say reckless driving plagues outer Washington Avenue

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Portland residents say reckless driving plagues outer Washington Avenue

PORTLAND — Tired of living in fear that vehicles may end up on their lawns – or worse, in their homes – some residents of outer Washington Avenue are lobbying the city for additional traffic control measures.

Friends of Washington Avenue North began organizing a few months ago, shortly after a vehicle driving late one Sunday morning left the street, went over the sidewalk, took out a fence, and then hit a telephone pole and a tree.

The speed limit on that section of Washington Avenue, which runs parallel to Auburn Street, has a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

"(The car) almost hit a group of boys on their bikes," said Rick Romano, a leader of the Friends of Washington Avenue North.

Romano said that during the past year, there have been six accidents along the less-than-mile-long stretch of road. Vehicles hit houses in three of them.

"My house was hit by a car about six months ago," Romano said. "My neighbor had a car flip over onto his front lawn."

Romano and some of his neighbors have put out homemade signs, and have worked with police Officer Andjelko Napijalo, the senior lead officer for the area that includes North Deering. Napijalo has increased patrols along the road and also set up a speed tracking device in a tree for a week to track the speed of cars.

"I was sitting out there a few days ago and in one hour issued 10 tickets for traveling 10 to 15 (mph over the speed limit)," Napijalo said Monday night, at a meeting of the North Deering Neighborhood Association. "That's extreme."

The neighborhood association has met with the friends group a couple of times, and Monday night Romano asked NDNA leaders to bring the issue to City Manager Joe Gray during the monthly meeting he has with leaders of the city's neighborhood groups.

The NDNA did not have a quorum Monday night, and President Tim St. Hilaire said he'd like to see more statistics and studies of other areas in North Deering before voting to go to Gray. But at the urging of other members, St. Hilaire said he would ask for a vote on the issue via e-mail this week.

"I think the board members are very concerned," St. Hilaire said.

Napijalo has provided police reports of 11 accidents to the NDNA, along with information about average speeds and traffic.

District 5 City Councilor John Coyne was at the meeting, and has met with the friends group to hear their concerns. He said at the meeting Monday that Gray is aware of the issues on Washington Avenue north and that he will continue to work with residents. Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky and Neighborhood Administrator Mike Murray were also at the meeting.

Napijalo said he did some research and would suggest the city look into getting solar-powered speed indicator signs to place along the street. He said signs indicating radar is in use could also help deter speeders.

The officer stressed that he has not looked into the cost of such signs or discussed them with the appropriate city officials. He and the neighbors originally discussed the possibility of installing cameras along the street, but Napijalo said those are illegal under state law.

For more information about the Friends of Washington Avenue North group, contact Rick Romano at rickromano@maine.rr.com

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net