Reaction cool to suggestions for Brunswick, Topsham traffic relief

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BRUNSWICK — State transportation planners and consultants on Wednesday presented a series of concept plans they hope will increase access and improve traffic flow around Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The presentation was part of a $1 million study tackling three of the area’s most troublesome traffic areas, including outer Pleasant Street and Mill Street in Brunswick, and Route 196 in Topsham.

The proposals drew about 100 residents, business owners and officials from both communities.

Some plans depicted roads running through private properties and significant traffic changes, including:

• Roundabouts on outer Pleasant Street and increased connectivity on its adjacent side streets.

• Four lanes on Mill Street.

• A “trumpet loop” interchange providing direct access to BNAS.

• And a graded intersection at Route 196 and Route 201 in Topsham. 

Knowing the proposals could create a visceral response – particularly from residents who may one day be asked to sell all or portions of their property – officials with the state Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, emphasized that all of the proposals are preliminary.

Neither DOT nor its consultants from Bedford, N.H.-based Vanasse Hangen Brustlin attached any costs to the proposals. The omission left some residents disappointed.

Fred Horch, a local business owner and Green Independent candidate running for the state Legislature, said the failure to include costs made it nearly impossible for residents to assess the proposals. Horch said he was also disappointed that the study made little mention of public transportation options.

Ted Crooker, vice president of Harry C. Crooker & Sons in Topsham, said the study area should have been expanded to include a portion of River Road in Brunswick. Crooker argued that a cloverleaf exit system to Interstate 295 would alleviate some of the congestion on Pleasant Street.

Those remarks were just a few made during a 20-minute public comment session, and it appears more on the way. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Scott Taylor, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association in Brunswick, e-mailed members to express dismay at some of the plans, particularly the proposed widening of Mill Street.

“Once again it seems we are being asked to sell our souls and our (sense) of place for some poorly defined idea of ‘progress’ which I’m not sure is even necessary,” Taylor wrote.

Interest in the study has been steadily increasing as consultants reveal potential options, some of which will be eliminated because of cost. DOT officials said they hope to reveal those figures before a final public meeting in July. The study is expected to wrap up in August.

In the meantime, they encouraged residents to comment on the proposals on the study website, nasb-transportation-study.com.

Residents are also asked to attend a June 5 meeting focusing on outer Pleasant Street. The Project for Public Spaces workshop, hosted by the Brunswick and the DOT, will be held at at the Curtis Memorial Library from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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