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Cape Elizabeth faces use-it-or-lose-it decision on $400K grant for town center traffic light

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Cape Elizabeth faces use-it-or-lose-it decision on $400K grant for town center traffic light

CAPE ELIZABETH — Threatened with the loss of a $400,000 grant to install a traffic light in the town center, town councilors will meet with local and state transportation officials in a workshop Monday, July 13, at 6:30 p.m.

The Town Council voted last month to postpone its decision on whether to move forward with a project recommended by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Route 77, Scott Dyer Road and Shore Road.

That decision was based on a suggestion by Chairman Jim Rowe that postponing until November would give the town a full year to evaluate more passive efforts that have been made to improve pedestrian safety.

But the Maine Department of Transportation, concerned about continuing to hold the more than $400,000 grant awarded by PACTS in 2006, has demanded the town make a decision.

Pushing the decision until November was the second time the Town Council opted to wait on the project; last November, after a public hearing that drew concerns about the project's $1.2 million total cost, councilors decided to take less expensive actions to improve pedestrian safety, including placing crossing flags at points on Route 77.

But the town isn't the only entity with a tight budget – Shawn Smith, MDOT project manager for the town center intersection project, said that when he was told the intersection and all MDOT work was being put on hold again, he took the matter to his supervisors and they decided that "to hold that money isn't the right thing to do at this time."

There are other projects in the state that have full support from their own communities, Smith said.

"It's not that we're threatening to withhold money (from Cape Elizabeth)," he said. "We just can't have $437,000 sitting idle," while other projects need funding.

Smith said he hopes the workshop Monday can bring about a final decision on whether Cape will move forward, using the grant, or drop it, allowing the money to go to other projects.

If the town chooses not to move forward, it will have to pay back project design costs of about $140,000; that money will come from a 2008 bond issue.

The workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Council chambers, and will not be televised. The regular council meeting, where the workshop's conclusions will be discussed, begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised. Also on Monday's agenda are a financial update from Town Manager Michael McGovern and setting a public hearing for next month to discuss the future of Goddard Mansion in Fort Williams.

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