Proposed roundabout spurs Falmouth discussion

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FALMOUTH — The town’s most dangerous intersection is getting a serious makeover.

Residents got a first glimpse at a $1.2 million proposal to build a roundabout at the intersection of Middle Road, Longwoods Road and Woods Road during a preliminary public hearing Wednesday, April 30, at Town Hall.

The federal- and state-funded project will begin in two years, according to state planners.

About 20 residents – most of whom live near the intersection – attended the meeting and voiced overall support for the plan, although there were concerns about its details.

The state first identified the intersection as a high-crash location in 2003, according to project designer Ethan Flynn. In 2005, the state added a traffic island and increased lighting to the intersection, but safety did not substantially improve.

“We’re here nine years later and it’s still a high-crash location, so obviously more work needs to be done,” Flynn said.

Flynn said about 6,200 vehicles per day use the intersection. In a three-year period from 2010 through 2012, there were 17 crashes, including seven with injuries, and one fatal crash just south of the intersection.

The meeting began with an overview of the differences between roundabouts and bulkier, less-popular rotaries. Roundabouts, which are smaller in circumference than rotaries, naturally reduce speeds, which allows for easier merging of traffic, according to a video presentation.

Roundabouts are also safer than traditional, lighted intersections, according to the video. A roundabout reduces the total number of crashes by 40 percent. Crashes with injuries are reduced by 75 percent. Fatal crashes are reduced by 90 percent.

Roundabouts also handle traffic faster than traditional lighted intersections and lessen fuel consumption.

Project Manager Ernie Martin said the project is fully funded without any town contribution. The federal government will fund 90 percent of the project because it qualifies for safety improvements. The state will pay the remainder.

Many residents expressed support for the project, but were concerned that heavy traffic at the intersection of Bucknam and Middle roads will cause vehicles to queue inside the roundabout and stymie flow through the circle from other directions.

Martin said it’s too soon to know what effect the two intersections will have on each other when a roundabout is built.

Police Chief Edward Tolan said he supports the project and doesn’t think it will adversely affect response times by police departing the nearby station at 2 Marshall Drive.

Public Works Director Jay Reynolds also supports the project. He said it will improve safety at the “most dangerous intersection.”

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

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Maine Department of Transportation planners Bob Carrell, left, and Ethan Flynn discuss a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Middle Road, Route 9 and Woods Road during an informational meeting Wednesday, April 30, at Falmouth Town Hall. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2016.

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