Mid-Coast residents, officials respond to proposed Route 24 changes
TOPSHAM — Mid-Coast residents and officials had the chance to provide feedback Monday night on a plan that would recommend several changes to Route 24.
Some of the most significant proposals include re-routing a portion of Route 24 away from the Brunswick and Topsham downtown areas, making the road more bicyclist and pedestrian friendly.
The proposed changes are part of the Route 24 Corridor Plan, which is meant to guide the Maine Department of Transportation for future investments when funding becomes available. The public hearing, conducted by a planning committee of the Midcoast Council of Governments, was the fourth part of an eight-part process that began last fall.
Route 24 stretches from Harpswell to Gardiner, and goes through Brunswick, Topsham, Bowdoinham and Richmond.
The meeting at the Topsham Municipal Building drew fewer than 20 people. But the plan to widen bike lanes and make Route 24 more accessible to cyclists and walkers was one a major topic of discussion.
Elinor Multer, chairwoman of the Harpswell Board of Selectmen, expressed uncertainty over implementing the so-called "Complete Streets" approach along the entire route, citing some areas where the road is too narrow.
"There are some places where (in order to get) three feet away from a bicycle you have to go into the other lane," Multer said. State law requires motorists to give cyclists three feet of space when passing, although it also allows drivers to use the opposing lane if necessary.
Multer said there also might be conflicting interests between cyclists who want wider bicycle lanes, and those who are concerned about paving over impervious surfaces.
"If this is ultimately going to involve some pressure or some effort to increase paved bicycle lanes," Multer said, "it seems to me that somewhere they ought to be meeting with people who are concerned about the increased paving, so you don't have two different concerns operating, each in isolation."
Jan Tardiff, a Topsham resident, said she is concerned about the high volume of traffic near her Route 24 home and asked if a study could be done to address possible solutions.
"It has increased a lot in the past few years," Tardiff said. "... I'd love to see a count on how many people use (that section of Route 24) in a day."
Carol Eyerman, Harpswell's town planner, said ditches and culverts should be considered in advance of future Route 24 maintenance projects.
The corridor plan has been in development since last fall, under the guidance of the Midcoast Council of Governments and a committee of local officials. It began after MDOT designated Route 24 as a "Corridor of Regional Economic Significance."
The Midcoast Council of Governments will review public comments on June 12.
Other aspects of the corridor plan include increasing signs and marketing efforts on Route 24 for nearby communities, creating plans to deal with storm surge inundation, and maintaining the current capacity of the corridor.
The committee developed recommendations after considering population, residential and commuter data; road traffic, crash and condition data, and existing plans and regulations.
The development of the corridor plan will likely conclude later this year. It must be adopted by the Midcoast Council of Governments, endorsed by the affected communities and ultimately approved by MDOT.
It is not known when MDOT funding will become available.