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Changes proposed for Scarborough's Payne Road trouble local businesses

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Changes proposed for Scarborough's Payne Road trouble local businesses

SCARBOROUGH — A committee that has been considering ways to reduce and calm traffic along the residential section of Payne Road between Haigis Parkway and Route 1 have suggested several solutions that some businesses are afraid will cause a significant drop in customers.

For 68 years, the Flahertys have operated Flaherty Family Farms where Payne Road intersects Scottow Hill and Beech Ridge roads. Begun by their father, the 225-acre property is the oldest and largest farm left in Scarborough, Jack and Jim Flaherty said.

The Flahertys, who sell vegetables, fruits, flowers and garden-related products to the public, said they rely on drive-by traffic for much of their business.

But neighbors who live down that stretch of Payne Road are fed up with the amount and the speed of commuter traffic that cuts across Payne Road from the Maine Turnpike or from Route 1 in Dunstan Corner instead of using Haigis Parkway.

"It's difficult – you can't blame the neighbors, but it's our livelihood,"  Jim Flaherty said.

Jack Flaherty said they would like the business to continue, but aren't sure they could survive financially if any of the more drastic proposals are implemented.

"It will force us to develop the land," he said. "They've got a lot to look at."

The committee has been considering a number of different options for the stretch of road. The town has already secured $260,000 in planning money from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, according to Town Manager Tom Hall. The money has been awarded specifically to alleviate traffic congestion at Dunstan Corner, where Route 1 intersects with Payne Road.

While the original plan for that area called for a new section of road to divert traffic around the other side of the Dunstan Schoolhouse Restaurant, Town Planner Dan Bacon said the consulting engineers believed the plan could draw more traffic to Payne Road instead of reducing it.

"To improve the intersection and de-emphasize traffic at the west end of Payne Road, the improvement in Dunstan Corner would need to prohibit a left turn onto Payne and direct traffic to the Haigis intersection, particularly in the morning commute," Bacon said.

To make that happen, the town must improve the intersection of Haigis Parkway and Route 1 to handle more morning and evening commuter traffic, he said.

But the committee is also considering further options to reduce traffic on Payne Road. The most drastic, which has since been rejected, would be to make Payne a dead-end road south of Flaherty's. Other ideas include installing a round-about at the intersection by Flaherty's or erecting stop signs at the intersections of Payne and Scottow Hill and Payne and Beech Ridge.

During the planning stages of the Cabela's development, which is located directly off of the Maine Turnpike on the corner of Haigis Parkway and Payne Road, residents southwest of the development had expressed concerns that it would increase traffic. At the time, the town and Cabela's developer, New England Expedition, agreed there would be signs erected to direct traffic away from the residential section of Payne Road.

But there's confusion about responsibility for their installation.

"There was supposed to be a series of signs at Dunstan Corner and Haigis Parkway and Payne Road to facilitate traffic using Haigis and Route 1 and not to use Payne," Cabela's developer Gene Beaudoin said. "They were a key piece of making traffic go in the right direction."

Beaudoin said it had been the responsibility of the town to erect the signs but "the effort fell through."

When asked about the signs, Bacon looked up the conditions of approval for Cabela's and discovered the town had placed the requirement on the developers to put up the signs, something Bacon said he is now likely to pursue with Beaudoin.

Flaherty Farms is not the only business unhappy about the proposed traffic restrictions. Beaudoin said he would be meeting July 23 with his Cabela's shops' tenants, in part to discuss the possible restrictions.

"Most have strong opinions about not limiting north(bound) or southbound traffic," he said. "Some view local traffic on Payne Road as critical to their business."

New England Expedition's attorney, Rick Shinay, said his client "would prefer there not be impediments for traffic visiting the project."

"Like any retail business, you like to make it easy to get there and as much as possible you want to have traffic run past your facility," he said.

The Payne Road Study Committee meets again Wednesday, July 29, at 7:30 a.m. It is expected to make recommendations to the Town Council in August or September.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.