Roundabout ‘off the table’ for Topsham Lower Village

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TOPSHAM — After a feasibility study determined a roundabout in the Lower Village would cause traffic backups, the town is seeking other ways to make the area safer for drivers and pedestrians.

The Board of Selectmen last August unanimously approved funding the $30,000 study by Tom Errico, a traffic engineer with the T.Y. Lynn firm. Half the funding came from Topsham Development.

The single-lane roundabout, similar to one previously constructed at Congress Avenue and State Road in Bath, was to be built at the intersection of Summer Street, the Bowdoin Mill entrance, and Main Street, where traffic can queue up behind motorists turning left.

Town officials reviewed the study results last December with the Maine Department of Transportation, which decided a roundabout would not be feasible, Town Manager Rich Roedner said Feb. 19.

“It’s counter-intuitive to everything we know about roundabouts, but the models show that there’d be significant stacking (of traffic) on Main Street,” Roedner said. “The roundabout is, in all likelihood, off the table at this point.”

With about half the original budget consumed, the town will focus the rest of the funding on what Roedner called “secondary concepts.” These include improving the pedestrian crosswalk at Summer Street by creating a pedestrian island.

Roedner noted that drivers in Topsham are less inclined to park off Main Street and walk over to Bowdoin Mill Island.

Pedestrian signals have been changed in order to be more effective, and “this would be another avenue to make it more palatable for pedestrians to cross that road,” he added. “These are some things that the town can do to improve the comfort level.”

DOT also suggested the town evaluate whether the traffic capacity exists to justify a short left-turn lane on both sides of the Summer Street intersection, “so that cars can get out of the flow of traffic to make that left turn, and allow traffic to continue to move,” Roedner said.

Since DOT is due to repave Main Street this summer, the town must complete any engineering work by then so the department can include the work as part of the paving contract, the manager said. Once the pavement goes down, there is a three-year moratorium on cutting it, he added.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously authorized the new direction at its Feb. 18 meeting, Roedner said.

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

Officials determined this plan for a roundabout in Topsham Lower Village would have made a bad situation worse.

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.