Cumberland may ease standards for small roads

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council and Planning Board are considering a proposed set of eased standards for future subdivision roads and private ways.

The revisions, which would loosen rules that govern the way smaller roads are built, were scheduled for a joint workshop Tuesday and may be discussed again by the Planning Board next month, with a Town Council vote possible in April.

“We are proposing to modify the design standards for new roads,” Town Planner Carla Nixon said in an interview Feb. 9, noting that the standards increase as more houses are added to subdivision or private roads.

With subdivisions, for example, the paved width of a road from edge to edge would have to be 18 feet if residential access is at or less than 50 vehicles per day. For more than 50, the width would be 22 feet, and for mixed use commercial access, 24 feet.

“We’re finding … that it’s very expensive to build roads to larger standards than are necessary, and it’s a lot more expensive to maintain them,” Nixon said.

The town tends to accept subdivision roads as public ways – it adopted three last year – and “we realize that as years go by, we’re going to be maintaining these roads that are far too wide for what is needed,” she said.

While the subdivision roads have been built to town standards, they do not necessarily have to be that wide, with as thick a degree of pavement, a factor triggering the road standards update.

“The town is looking to be more environmentally friendly, more cost-conscious about road construction and maintenance,” Nixon said. “… The general idea is, be more sensible with what you require with roads.”

Another benefit to narrower roads would be reduced impervious surfaces in subdivisions, making it easier for them to meet federal stormwater standards.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.