South Portland hopes to calm Cottage Road traffic

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city is exploring ways to curb speeding on Cottage Road.

Tex Haeuser, planning and development director, on Monday said four sets of “bump outs” were installed along the street at crosswalks to narrow the roadway. The white plastic posts were placed on Nov. 28 and removed Dec. 8 in anticipation of an oncoming storm and subsequent snow plowing.

Haeuser said it was a test of a concept and may be part of a potential plan to reduce speeding in the area, although the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee has not yet made recommendations to the City Council on specific traffic-calming measures to implement.

Committee member Rosemarie DeAngelis said Monday night that a meeting Thursday would provide direction for the council.

“But it comes down to money,” she said.

DeAngelis said the bump-outs will be recommended to be used on a seasonal basis, and additional recommendations would likely include extending curbs, adding more crosswalks, and eliminating parking spaces at intersections to create more visibility for drivers turning on to Cottage Road. 

Three rapid-fire beacons will also be installed at crosswalks, as well as additional lamp posts for better lighting, she said.

DeAngelis said the highest crash rate in the city at the intersection of Cottage Road and Pillsbury Street.

She 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.

Most of the recommended changes will be for the area between the Mitchell Road and Woodbury Street intersections, she said. 

The city’s police and fire departments will also review the committee’s recommendations and provide feedback. 

Haeuser said there have been complaints over the years about speeding. More serious results of speed and poor visibility in the neighborhood include a pedestrian death, as well as bicyclist and pedestrian collisions with vehicles.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the rezoning done recently,” Haeuser said, referring to the creation of the Meetinghouse Hill Community District. 

In October, the zone was changed to a residential and commercial mixed-use area, and with that, an influx of activity is expected.

“We want it to be a hub of activity, but we also want it to be safe,” DeAngelis said. 

Residents have submitted comments to the city about the bump-outs, with mixed reviews.

Some have had concerns about the impact on bicyclists, and about the bump-outs forcing vehicles making right turns onto Cottage Road into opposing traffic. Several said the change did not appear to reduce speeding, although others said it altered driving habits in the area. 

Resident Peter Stanton, in a statement to the city about the experiment, said, “I haven’t had a chance to walk there, but from a driving perspective I think the curb bump-outs are great. Speaks loudly that this is a pedestrian-friendly area and puts drivers on notice to slow down and pay attention.”

Although the rezoning is supported by the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Haeuser said residents then came forward to say existing traffic issues must be addressed as additional development and activity takes place in the area.

He said a time-line on traffic calming measures to be implemented depends on cost and what is decided to be effective. Smaller changes could occur next year, with more comprehensive changes spanning several years.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661, ext.106 or jlaaka@theforecaster.net

A view of Cottage Road in South Portland, near the intersection with Pillsbury Street, where the bicycle and safety committee has been working on solutions to deter speeding in the area.

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