SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Tuesday heard recommendations about how to limit speeding and mitigate danger to pedestrians on Cottage Road.
Project costs to curb speeding range from $34,000 for one flashing beacon to $1.8 million to implement a comprehensive plan, including raised medians, realignment of Pillsbury Street, and flashing pedestrian beacons.
“This is a public safety issue we can’t ignore,” Councilor Claude Morgan said.
City Planning Director Tex Haeuser said “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was the rezoning last October in the creation of the Meetinghouse Hill Community District.
The zone was changed to a residential and commercial mixed-use area, and with that, an influx of activity and traffic is expected.
At Tuesday’s council workshop, Haeuser presented the findings and recommendations of a safety improvements committee that was tasked with generating solutions.
Haeuser said the preferred solution is a $900,000 project that would be funded by grants to the city from the Maine Department of Transportation. This proposal would include the installation of three rapid beacon pedestrian-activated signs, realigning Pillsbury Street, and painting parking spots along Cottage Road. The work could begin as early as this summer.
Haeuser said the project needs additional engineering consultation before construction plans would go to bid.
The area eyed for improvement runs from Mitchell Road to the Cape Elizabeth border. In the last several years, one pedestrian death occurred in the area, as well as other pedestrian and vehicle accidents.
Councilor Kate Lewis said many children and families are affected by problems crossing the street, since it is a busy section of the city with several schools and parks.
“I’m in favor of implementing as many safety measures as we can as soon as possible, but I want the plan to be refined,” Lewis said.
Committee member Rosemarie DeAngelis said the highest crash rate in the city is at the intersection of Cottage Road and Pillsbury Street.
Councilors said the plan should be refined and more focused, but all voiced support for improving safety and several in particular said they are partial to including bump-outs that would narrow Cottage Road.
During a test of plastic bollards last December, pedestrians reported to the city they felt safer crossing the street, although the Fire Department chief and some drivers complained the measures made the street too narrow.
DeAngelis said narrowing the street is an effective way to reduce speeds, since the speed limit is 30 mph. Reducing the limit to 25 mph is also an option, but DeAngelis said without police enforcement, that would likely not have a great impact.
Not allowing vehicles to park 20 feet from intersections and 10 feet from driveways is also a recommendation of the committee, which would improve visibility in the area.
The plans will come before the council again at a later date.
The section of Cottage Road near Pillsbury Street in South Portland is eyed for improvements to increase pedestrian safety and reduce speeding.