PORTLAND — Just a block away from a notoriously dangerous six-way intersection in the city’s Oakdale neighborhood, another intersection is threatening drivers and pedestrians, residents say.
City Councilor David Marshall and city engineers met with them Sept. 12 to discuss ways of improving safety at the corner of Falmouth and Oakdale streets.
The streets meet in a T-shaped intersection on the western edge of the University of Southern Maine campus. In response to resident requests, the city is considering the installation of three stop signs or other traffic controls there to better manage the flow of vehicles and pedestrians.
“This intersection is important because it’s the gateway to the neighborhood, and on any given day a lot of students are walking down Oakdale (Street),” said Carol Schiller, president of the University Neighborhood Organization, which coordinated the meeting.
Concerns about the intersection echo those about the “six-corners area” where Falmouth Street meets Brighton and Deering avenues, barely 200 yards away. That junction has seen 25 accidents over three years, making it a “high-accident location” according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
Both areas have grown more congested in recent years, especially as the USM campus has expanded and become a more popular traffic destination.
No accident statistics are available for the corner of Falmouth and Oakdale streets, but that’s no reassurance for residents.
The intersection is especially dangerous for drivers turning left from Oakdale Street, a Fessenden Street resident said. Because of vehicles parked close to the corner and a slight hill on Falmouth Street, drivers must pull far into the intersection before they can even see if turning is safe.
“I want to make a left-hand turn without getting T-boned,” he said.
The problem is compounded by a steady stream of pedestrians crossing Falmouth Street to the USM campus. Because of the placement of sidewalks and a campus bus stop, pedestrians often take a dangerous diagonal path across the intersection.
“At a minimum, we need a crosswalk there before someone gets hurt,” the resident said.
Falmouth Street resident Steve Leighton also supported the use of crosswalks and called for the installation of stop signs.
“My initial thought was that I didn’t want a sign at the corner, because of the noise that would be created by traffic stopping,” he said. “But the noise is already there anyway.”
Other possible solutions mentioned at the meeting include installing traffic mirrors that would give drivers and pedestrians better visibility, making part of Oakdale Street one-way, or even creating a dead end that would eliminate turns completely.
But a first step may be forbidding street parking within 25 feet of the intersection, as required by city traffic rules, according to Director of Public Services Michael Bobinsky. He said the buffer zone often is violated because of the demand for parking and the lack of street signs.
“This is takeaway from tonight. We may need to remove a parking space or two, but that would improve sight distances at the intersection,” Bobinsky said. “That’s something we can do rapidly.”
Meanwhile, city engineers will prepare recommendations for the intersection over the coming weeks, and another neighborhood meeting will be scheduled to discuss them, Schiller said.