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Scarborough residents unimpressed with plan to bypass Running Hill Road

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Scarborough residents unimpressed with plan to bypass Running Hill Road

SCARBOROUGH — A new proposal to deal with traffic problems on Running Hill Road was poorly received at a public meeting attended by approximately 40 people on July 13.

The plan would create a road between Route 114 and Spring Street, using the eastern end of the existing Running Hill Road to connect at the Spring Street intersection. It would also create a rotary at Route 114.

The new road would be a joint venture between R.J. Grondin & Sons, which owns property in the area, and the town.

"You're not doing anything with this plan," one resident said during the hearing. "People who live on that road have had enough already. I can't even get out of my own driveway."

Reconstruction of Running Hill Road has caused controversy in the past, when a design was presented that would have turned it into a dead end. While that design initially received a positive response, a second public hearing revealed that not everyone was excited about cutting off the connection between Route 114 and the Maine Mall.

"This is not a built road, it's a country road that's turned into a commuter route," Planning Director Dan Bacon said during the meeting.

The town hired Bill Bray of Traffic Solutions to do a traffic study of the road after the Spring Street end of Running Hill Road was rezoned in 2008 as mixed-use to encourage residential and business development.

Bray determined the road is dangerous, with drivers often speeding well above the 35 mph limit, that the intersection with Route 114 had a higher number of accidents than average intersections, and that the roadway was in marginal condition and inadequate for its traffic volume.

"We tried hard to balance the goals of the study, listening intently to what you had for issues," said Bray to the meeting attendees.

The latest proposal is an attempt to balance the concerns of those who still want a way to get to the mall using Running Hill Road, with those who wanted traffic reduced.

"We're talking about urban sprawl here," said one woman who lives on the western side of Running Hill Road. "We have an opportunity right now, the people who have homes on this road, to make this into a permanent, pristine rural area. Otherwise this is going to eventually sprawl out and turn into Running Hill Highway."

The new proposal would create a stop sign on Running Hill Road forcing traffic to turn left to continue toward the mall. Bray said that considering the amount of traffic predicted for the new road, those waiting at the stop sign to turn left would be waiting for a while. He indicated that would discourage commuters from taking Running Hill Road.

One woman, who said she owns a home in the mixed-use zone, said she is concerned that if businesses want to develop in that area, a difficult left turn to the mall area would discourage that development. She said that would decrease property values in the area.

A few people offered suggestions for ways the plan could be improved, including a three-way stop at Running Hill Road and New Road, and raised speed tables to slow traffic. Many attendees also said they preferred the earlier plan, which would close off Running Hill Road.

Bacon said he had hoped for a warmer reception for the plan, but, having not received it, that staff would revisit the old plan and put together another proposal before presenting it to the town council.

He warned that the new road would be a joint venture between Grondin and the town, and that it would not move forward until Grondin decided to develop the area.

"We can't predict what Grondin will do," said Bacon. "And we want to bring a plan to the council that is supported by a majority here."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net