BATH — Following a presentation last week on recommended traffic flow improvements for the city’s South End streets, a consulting firm is due in April to issue its final report.
T.Y. Lin has been working with the city, Bath Iron Works and the Maine Department of Transportation on the study. Methods to alleviate traffic congestion and increase pedestrian safety include making Washington Street by Bath Iron Works a one-way, two-lane street during peak shift-changing time.
The study area comprises Leeman Highway (U.S. Route 1) and Centre Street, running south along Washington, Middle and High streets to Webber Street.
Following an initial public meeting on the matter last September, T.Y. Lin collected data and established a set of recommendations to the three parties. The firm presented those findings at a meeting Jan. 31 that drew about 50 people to City Hall auditorium.
The study team found no single solution for all the issues, but determined that various smaller, short- to long-term solutions will make a significant difference, Tom Errico – a traffic engineering director with T.Y. Lin – told the audience. Costs have yet to be determined.
Information on the study is posted at cityofbath.com/southendstudy, where people can also sign up to receive updates and meeting notices.
The study focused on three areas: improving pedestrian safety, reducing the impact of vehicular traffic on the neighborhoods, and finding ways to improve parking availability or reduce parking demand.
“It took 170 years to get to where we are now (since Bath’s incorporation as a city), so it’s going to take a little bit of time – not that long – to try to reverse some of the problems that we’ve got out there,” City Manager Peter Owen said Feb. 1. “… We still have a process to go through, to start to narrow down some of those (improvements) options, and to come out with the final report.”
Up until two years ago there was no coordination between the city and BIW “regarding how to look at a combined effort to solve some of these problems,” Owen added. “I’m really happy to see BIW stepping up to look at that.”
At the end of their shifts, members of the 700 Washington St. shipyard’s large workforce get into their vehicles and flood nearby streets, often causing traffic backups, particularly in the middle of the afternoon. Andrew Bond, vice president of human relations at the shipyard, spoke about steps BIW has taken to move or reduce employee traffic.
BIW has about 1,200 parking spots within the city and about 600 offsite satellite spots, from which employees are shuttled into the shipyard, he said. The service runs 54 shuttle trips a day. Offsite ridership increased 10-15 percent in last year’s fourth quarter.
All deliveries now go down Washington Street, keeping them off neighborhood streets, Bond said. Shuttle buses now only drop people off on the shipyard side of Washington, instead of both sides, to relieve congestion and improve safety.
“We want to a be a good neighbor,” Bond said. “With 5,800 employees, we have to figure out how we can fulfill the needs of our employees as far as parking, safety of our employees and safety of the neighborhood.”
One recommendation Errico presented was the addition of a stop sign at the uphill approach of Centre Street’s intersection with High Street. The other three approaches to that high-crash intersection already have stop signs, he noted.
Another recommendation for safety and mobility improvements is an additional lane on the High Street bridge as it approaches the U.S. Route 1 northern off-ramp – a longer-term solution for when that bridge is someday replaced. Sidewalks and bicycle lanes are suggested, too.
“When someone’s waiting to turn left to go south (on U.S. Route 1), you can get by and continue toward Court Street and Centre Street,” Errico explained.
Strategies to direct BIW traffic toward Washington Street, and away from High Street, could help alleviate traffic delays, he said.
Errico called for extending green-light time for northbound Washington Street travelers during BIW’s 3:30 p.m. shift release near the U.S. Route 1 viaduct, next to the post office.
“The signal system has been set up to go one approach at a time,” he said, noting that all the approaches have about the same green-light time.
Shifting those timings to favor northbound Washington Street traffic would reduce traffic backups, Errico added. Increasing green-light time from 21 to 31 seconds could reduce delays from an average 345.9 seconds to 105.8 seconds, he noted.
“That’s part of the reason why people are traveling through the neighborhood, headed toward High Street … because they don’t want to wait for 345 seconds,” Errico said.
If that intersection is fixed, he noted, “I really believe you’ll fix a lot of the problems and the diversion of traffic through the neighborhood.”
On that note, Errico asked residents to consider converting Washington Street’s northbound approach to a one-way road between 3:30-4 p.m., as BIW’s shift gets out. The shift would be geared toward “providing the most possible capacity for Washington Street” as it approaches the viaduct and motorists turn left to head south on U.S. Route 1, he said.
“It’s a lot like what you would see at an event, a concert, where they … flush traffic out as quickly as possible, potentially with police control, or special Intelligent Transportation System devices,” Errico explained.
Workers heading toward BIW for the start of the 4 p.m. shift could use Middle Street or other roads, he noted.
It is figured that 426 vehicles at peak time would be shifted to Washington Street, if the side streets between Russell Street and U.S. Route 1 are made one-way streets in the eastward direction, eliminating them as shortcuts from Washington. But Washington Street would have to be one-way as well, with both lanes sending motorists toward U.S. Route 1, to accommodate that level of traffic, Errico said.
Tom Errico, a traffic engineering director with T.Y. Lin, describes several potential improvements along Bath’s South End streets during a Jan. 31 meeting at City Hall. The changes are geared toward alleviating traffic congestion and increasing pedestrian safety.
The Bath traffic study area comprises Leeman Highway (U.S. Route 1) and Centre Street, running south along Washington, Middle and High streets to Webber Street.