Topsham selectmen approve crosswalk move

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on Feb. 2 unanimously approved moving a Bridge Street crosswalk about 100 feet south, to where it used to be.

The board also called for a sign to be installed that warns traffic of the crosswalk.

Resident Jeff Deletesky, who proposed the move, said a crosswalk at the intersection of Union and Bridge streets, which led to the Swinging Bridge, was moved about four years ago to its current location.

“People continue to use the old crosswalk,” he said, noting that he has rarely seen the new one used.

Deletesky called the issue a safety concern and asked that the old crosswalk be repainted.

Public Works Director Dennis Cox said he spoke with his predecessor, Rob Pontau, and found the crosswalk was moved because of visibility concerns about the original location.

He added that “if you move it south … to the proposed site, you’re going to lose approximately 100 feet of visibility, or the ability (for drivers) to see it 100 feet earlier.”

Cox told Town Manager Cornell Knight in a Jan. 26 memo that he had “looked into the sight distance to the proposed location and (found it) to be satisfactory although the existing location does allow a longer or safer site distance.”

He noted that a pedestrian at the existing crosswalk can be seen nearly 100 feet sooner from the south side than if that crosswalk is moved. “However, the site distance would be approximately 200 feet,” he added.

According to the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, issued by the Federal Highway Administration, a speed of 25 mph – the posted speed limit in that area – requires a sight distance of 155 feet.

Selectman Ronald Riendeau expressed doubt that many vehicles would drive through the area at that speed.

Selectman Andrew Mason said he understands the safety concerns, but that if nobody crosses at the new site, the old site is safer.

Chairman Donald Russell noted that closure of the Black Bridge has decreased the amount of traffic flow through the area.

He suggested having the crosswalk between the old and new sites, noting that “it would increase the sight distance from both (directions), and it would get (the crosswalk) closer to the Union Street intersection, where the people are more likely to cross where a walk should be.”

But Selectman David Douglass pointed out that “it just seems to me, as they directly come off the bridge they’re going to jump onto a crosswalk right at where the bridge is.”

The Board of Selectmen ultimately chose to move the crosswalk as proposed.

Cox said the change would happen in spring.

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

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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.