BRUNSWICK — The first of several public forums on potential changes to Maine Street and the downtown district was a success, Councilor Margo Knight said Tuesday.
Knight said about 75 people turned out for the public forum on Monday night to look at options for roundabouts and the addition of bike lanes to Maine Street.
“We had five breakout tables looking at the different plans for Maine Street,” she said. “We have three different options for roundabouts at Pleasant and Maine streets, and people approached this with a very positive, open attitude. It was really good to hear a lot of people very interested and positive about things that we could do to make downtown better for everybody.”
The Master Plan Implementation Committee presented two, detailed plans for changing traffic lanes on Maine Street between Gilman Place and Town Hall Place.
One of the plans inserts bike lanes next to the sidewalk on each side and keeps head-in diagonal parking, with two travel lanes and a turn lane. The other plan has back-in front-forward angle parking and continues the four lanes of travel, turning one lane into a share-row for bicyclists and vehicles.
“The only way (the second plan) could work is to have the back-in, front-out parking because people would be backing into the bike lane and couldn’t see cars coming,” Knight said. “That was not a very popular concept at all.”
She said that the beauty of having such a wide main street is that the width of the road will not have to be changed to accommodate the changes in the plans, but that there might be a little changing “here or there.”
Residents, however, expressed concern about the loss of downtown parking spaces.
“We don’t want to lose parking spaces downtown,” Knight agreed.
She said that parking is a “perceived” problem in downtown Brunswick and that if people feel they can’t find parking they will avoid the area and its businesses because they feel they can park more easily at big-box stores.
The committee plans to hold several more public forums at different times and on different days of the week to engage more residents.
Knight said the hope is to come up with a final plan by late fall or early winter and to move that plan forward in stages.
“Maybe if the support continues for a roundabout, maybe we could look for money to do a roundabout and then do traffic lanes later on or vice versa,” she said.
The plans viewed at the public forum will be on display on the Master Plan Implementation Committee’s website early next week so that people have the chance to look over them before the next public forum, which is yet to be scheduled.