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Cape Council to decide on traffic light

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Cape Council to decide on traffic light

CAPE ELIZABETH — After months of postponement, Town Councilors are expected to decide the future of the Town Center intersection and a possible traffic light Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Erecting a traffic light at the intersection of Route 77 with Scott Dyer and Shore roads has been recommended since the 1980s as part of the Town Center Plan, but is still a contentious issue among citizens concerned with the pricetag versus pedestrian safety.

The project was priced at $1.2 million last September by the Maine Department of Transportation, with $400,000 of that cost to be paid for by a Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System grant. But MDOT officials have said that because of the economy, the cost now would likely be 10 to 20 percent lower, bringing the town's contribution closer to $500,000.

According to Town Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta, there's close to $500,000 already allocated to the project through a 2008 bond issue – the exact available funds will be presented Wednesday.

After a public hearing garnered mixed views on moving forward with the traffic light proposal, the Town Council last November postponed their decision until May, and in the meantime funded passive pedestrian safety measures like improved crosswalks and flags for walkers to carry across the road. In May, councilors again postponed until this November, hoping to have a full year to evaluate those efforts.

Shortly after the second postponement, MDOT sent a letter to the town demanding a decision sooner. With a waiting list of approved projects but little funding, MDOT said it can't let the $400,000 PACTS grant sit in limbo any longer. 

And with citizens continuing to ask for creative solutions rather than stop lights, McGovern agrees that a final decision must be made soon: "We've studied creative options since 1984," he said last month, "and all were dismissed aside from the small things we've done. We need to make a decision – do we want a traffic light or not."

At risk if the council votes against the light is $25,000 worth of work already done, which would need to be remitted to MDOT. The council had been told before that that figure could be anywhere between $30,000 and $130,000 depending on whether MDOT would ask for just the local or the full total cost expended so far, but informed the town last month that they would only require $25,000 to be paid back.

So that all seven councilors could be present, the council scheduled their discussion for Wednesday, Aug. 26. Without the full council, some councilors feared they might deadlock and have to return to the same question again.

A public hearing has already been held on this issue by the Town Council, so they are not required to hold a second. However, the council usually accepts public comment on items of discussion.  Councilors also welcome e-mails and comments prior to the meeting. Councilor contact information is available on the town Web site.

Wednesday's meeting will be held in Town Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m., and will be televised.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.