Residents urge Cumberland council to keep Blanchard Road stop sign

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council next month is expected to discuss whether to remove a stop sign at the intersection of Blanchard and Skillin roads.

But people who live near the intersection expressed hope at a Jan. 28 meeting that the sign will stay put, primarily as a traffic-calming measure.

The T intersection has two stop signs – one for traffic heading southeast on Blanchard Road, and one for motorists driving northeast on Skillin Road. Those coming up Blanchard Road from Main Street have a free left-hand turn onto Skillin Road, while those traveling down Blanchard from Orchard Road meet with a stop sign.

The Gorrill Palmer engineering firm, which conducted a traffic evaluation of the intersection, has suggested that the sign on Blanchard Road be removed.

Tom Gorrill told people gathered at the Jan. 28 neighborhood meeting that, per a traffic count conducted last October, the abundance of peak-hour traffic moved from Skillin onto Blanchard in the morning, and from Blanchard onto Skillin in the evening – 145 vehicles during each period. A smaller amount of traffic was found to move straight along Blanchard, peaking at no more than 87 vehicles.

Two vehicle crashes occurred at the intersection between 2012 and 2014, both involving one vehicle, Gorrill said. One involved slippery road conditions, and the other happened when an extension from a large truck caught on overhead wires. Neither were caused by a vehicle not yielding the right-of-way, he said.

Gorrill presented three options:

1 — Keep things as they are, even though the intersection isn’t standard.

2 — Remove the Blanchard Road sign, and keep only the sign on Skillin.

3 — Have signs at all three sides of the intersection, even though it’s not warranted by traffic volume.

Gorrill recommended the second option.

From a field view of the intersection, and traffic counts, “there does not appear to be a reasonable explanation as to why the Blanchard Road eastbound approach is currently stop controlled,” the firm’s intersection evaluation report from last November states. “There were some observations that indicated that some drivers approaching eastbound on Blanchard Road presumably thought the opposite direction of Blanchard Road also stopped because they pulled out in front of left turning vehicles onto Skillin Road.

“We also witnessed left-turning vehicles from Blanchard Road hesitating when they took a left onto Skillin Road when another vehicle approached in the opposite direction, since the convention would be to yield the right of way,” the report added.

Chris Neagle, an Orchard Road resident who suggested the change, said he has gone through the Blanchard stop sign many times.

Admitting that he is not a patient person, Neagle – a former Planning Board member – said “I don’t know of another intersection like this one in our town, where you’re on a main road going straight, and all of a sudden you have to stop because someone’s coming in from the side.”

He stops there 10-20 times a week, he said, and rarely sees another vehicle coming from the other direction.

Neagle said he respects concerns about safety, particularly with a day care at the intersection, and suggested dropping the speed limit or installing a “school zone” sign.

Concerns expressed by other residents about the impact of removing the sign included greater vehicle speeds. Some suggested that the stop sign is part of the reason the intersection has seen few accidents.

Heather Jaccoma of Pond Shore Drive said she walks her dogs at the intersection every day, at off-peak hours. She echoed Gorrill’s observation that most traffic moving up Blanchard turns left onto Skillin.

“Everyone is turning left,” she said. “If there’s not a stop sign there, those people that are coming the opposite way, at a higher rate of speed because there will be no stop sign there, that’s a collision waiting to happen.”

Other residents, defending the sign’s presence, said there’s no reason to fix something that isn’t broken.

Removal of the sign will require a Town Council vote, which will come after another public hearing, likely to be held March 14.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Cumberland Town Council on March 14 is expected to discuss whether to remove stop signs on Blanchard Road at the intersection with Skillin Road.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.