Raised crosswalks the first step in transformation of Brunswick's Maine Street
BRUNSWICK — Town officials hope pedestrians will find Maine Street a little easier to cross after two raised crosswalks are installed this month.
Construction of the two structures began Monday, nearly a year after concerns from business owners about dwindling parking spots halted the project.
The work will require the permanent removal of seven parking spots on Maine Street, which officials have addressed through new parking rules and a study that discovered the availability of space in several privately owned lots in the area.
The work is expected to take two to three weeks to complete, and it will force downtown traffic at times to be consolidated from four lanes to two, according to Public Works Director John Foster. In addition, some additional parking spots may not be available during certain times.
The temporary two-lane traffic could provide motorists a preview of what's to come on Maine Street, as planning officials and town councilors continue to discuss further changes to one of the widest main streets in the state.
Paving work is expected to happen from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. on Oct. 24 and 25, bringing the project to an end by November, pending weather conditions. During that part of the project, traffic will be reduced to a single lane with alternating travel.
One raised crosswalk will replace an existing crosswalk between between Center and Cumberland streets. The other will replace an existing crosswalk between Bank and Lincoln streets, but will be on the opposite side of the intersection.
The work is being done by Hagar Enterprises, and will cost the town around $75,000, which the Town Council originally appropriated for the 2013 fiscal year budget.
The idea for raised crosswalks came from the council's Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee in fall 2011, after a suggestion from residents at the Thornton Oaks Retirement Living Community, Councilor and committee Chairwoman Margo Knight said.
Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich said the proposal would help address some of the pedestrian safety issues that were mentioned in a 2011 walkability report, along with the 2011 Downtown Master Plan, which the downtown committee is charged with implementing.
"Pedestrian safety has always been an issue for Maine Street," Breinich said.
The project was delayed last fall when Maine Street business owners raised concerns about the proposed loss of seven parking spots.
At the time, Morning Glory Natural Foods owner Susan Tarpinian said she would consider moving her business if the parking situation worsened.
Tarpinian said she remains skeptical of the project and is still considering a move if the number of downtown parking spots continues to be reduced.
"If parking gets worse, we would have to think about something," Tarpinian said on Tuesday, "but we love downtown and we want to stay downtown."
After the concerns about parking were raised, the council passed new parking rules in January intended to make the downtown area friendlier to shoppers while finding alternative lots for employees.
Some of the new rules, which were created in collaboration with the downtown committee and business owners, include increased parking fines and better enforcement of rules against parkers hopping between spaces on the same block.
The downtown committee also conducted two parking audits over the summer that found downtown parking availability is considered adequate and that several privately owned lots are open to public use.
At the end of the month, the downtown committee will continue to discuss a proposal to reduce Maine Street from four travel lanes to two, Knight said.