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Payne Road traffic meeting draws a crowd in Scarborough

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Payne Road traffic meeting draws a crowd in Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH — Though they agree the town must address the excessive speed of vehicles traveling Payne Road south of Cabela's, residents and area businesses may never see eye to eye on the optimum volume of traffic along the residential stretch connecting Haigis Parkway with Route 1 in Dunstan Corner.

More than 30 members of the public on Wednesday attended a meeting of the Payne Road Study Committee, an ad-hoc group comprised of Councilor Ron Ahlquist and about a half-dozen residents, assisted by various town staff. Most who attended own or represent businesses they believe would be negatively impacted by measures the town is considering to reduce the amount of traffic that travels that portion of the road.

The section of Payne Road up to Flaherty's Farm at the intersections of Scottow Hill and Beech Ridge roads is zoned R-2, with two houses allowed per acre, Town Planner Dan Bacon said. From Flaherty's to Route 1, it becomes RF, rural residence and farm.

The town secured $260,000 in planning money from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to address traffic problems at Dunstan Corner. It is likely there would be additional funding for construction, Town Manager Tom Hall said Wednesday. The amount was originally intended to fund planning for construction of a new stretch of road that would divert traffic around the other side of the Dunstan Schoolhouse Restaurant to avoid backups that occur because of the close proximity of the two existing traffic lights.

That project is estimated to cost $6 million and town officials want to make sure there aren't alternative plans that would be less costly and would address not only the Dunstan Corner intersection but also a larger area of Payne Road.

The committee has considered a wide range of changes and improvements that include speed bumps or tables, more and better signage to route commuters down Route 1 and up Haigis Parkway, a roundabout, a series of traffic lights or stop signs, and prohibiting left-hand turns onto Payne Road when traveling north on Route 1.

But time is critical in the committee's decision and its own members appear to be split in their opinions as to the best solution. They hope to make their recommendations to the Town Council in early September; Hall said the town must have an answer by the end of next month to keep the funding alive.

Many of the Gateway Shops were represented at Wednesday's meeting. All who spoke were against any measure that would reduce the amount of traffic to their businesses.

"I'd like to see more enforcement with the local police (to reduce speed) first," Henry VIII Carvery owner David Hopkinson said.

And Bob Harrisburg, who owns properties at 605 and 581 Route 1, said he needs the left onto Payne Road for his business.

"To take away that left on that road would be the death peal for my business," he said. "Somewhere along the line we've got to be realistic; you can't bite the hand that feeds you."

Real estate broker Tony Armstrong, who markets the Gateway Shops, said potential tenants "look very carefully at traffic flows" when considering a lease.

"When they think drastic measures might be taken, they get squeamish; they get cold feet," he said. "It (the traffic) is an important economic factor in the success of the project."

But committee member Polly Soule said she's concerned about safety on the winding road and lamented the lack of adequate planning before Cabela's was built.

"At least four to five times a year my neighbors end up with a car on their front lawn," she said.

Councilor Richard Sullivan told the committee he has been getting calls from people who want to see the original plan at Dunstan Corner go forward.

And Hall indicated the town would proceed with the original road reconstruction project at that intersection if another plan was not approved.

"I hear everything you're saying and I understand how tough business is," Ahlquist told the crowd. "We're just trying to make it safer."

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