BRUNSWICK — As the state Department of Transportation moves forward with a plan to restore connectivity between Route 1 and Maine Street, a $1 million study is taking a more comprehensive look at how traffic movement can speed the redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station.
By next summer, motorists traveling south on Route 1 could be able to exit the highway and take a left onto Maine Street near Fort Andross. The project is being designed by DOT.
Drivers familiar with Brunswick know getting downtown from southbound Route 1 requires taking a circuitous route on side streets, while Maine Street business owners assume that southbound motorists unfamiliar with the town’s quirky traffic patterns will simply bypass Brunswick altogether.
Allowing left turns at the so-called “pool table” could happen as soon as next year, according to Public Works Director John Foster. Foster said the project could simply mean restoring an old traffic signal that was taken out several years ago when DOT planners attempted to alleviate traffic congestion caused by workers leaving Brunswick Naval Air Station and Bath Iron Works.
Now, with the base scheduled to close next year, DOT is reviewing traffic flow in Brunswick and Topsham. On June 2, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Brunswick Junior High School, DOT officials and their consultants from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin in Bedford, N.H., will introduce several concepts that, like the pool table traffic signal, are designed to increase vehicle flow in Brunswick and into BNAS.
The study, which is funded by the federal Office of Economic Adjustment, is important to the base redevelopers, who believe the success of the reuse plan in part hinges on increasing connectivity and efficient traffic movement.
The focus is shared by local developers, residents and business owners, who have long argued that Brunswick and Topsham suffer from traffic challenges, whether it’s congestion at the Route 201 and Route 196 intersection in Topsham, or outer Pleasant Street in Brunswick.
Several concepts dealing those issues will be shown during the June 2 meeting. According to Marty Kennedy, with VHB, the proposals include adding roundabouts on outer Pleasant Street and opening up connections on parallel streets, and a raised intersection at Route 201 and Route 196.
Those are two areas addressed by the study. A third deals with the connection to the base itself, most significantly a direct bypass from Route 1 to the north entrance and the continuation of a rail spur.
While the direct Route 1 access is being pursued by base redevelopers, the plans for Pleasant Street have the potential to generate the most feedback, and potentially, the most opposition.
Attempts to create parallel connections to Pleasant Street have historically been met with resistance by residents of the area, some of whom could have lost property in the proposals.
But, according to Town Councilor Benet Pols, the transportation study is different from previous proposals.
“This is not just revisiting the Walgreens fiasco or the Paul Street fiasco,” said Pols, referring to two recent projects that drew the ire of some residents, despite being pitched as transportation solutions.
“This is more comprehensive,” Pols said.
Pols acknowledged that the outer Pleasant Street concepts could spark some resistance. However, he said, the ideas might also be appealing for area residents whose only connection to the rest of town is a bustling – some might say irritating – thoroughfare.
“I like the proposed connectivity on those back streets,” he said. “It allows people to get in and out of those businesses (on Pleasant Street), but also residents there have increased access to the town with side streets, or bike paths and sidewalks. That’s the way my neighborhood is.”
The base transportation study is running parallel to the implementation of the Gateway 1 project, which is reviewing land and transportation planning for communities along the Route 1 corridor, from Brunswick to Stockton Springs.
Consultants for the Gateway 1 project are expected to attend the June 2 meeting.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A traffic light and left turn toward downtown could be added to this intersection in Brunswick, where the only option now for southbound traffic leaving Route 1 is to head west on Maine Street to Topsham. The scene was photographed looking east from the fourth floor of Fort Andross.