Topsham selectmen mull traffic issues, drug-free zone

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on June 20 discussed ways to mitigate traffic issues at two intersections, along with parking on Pleasant Street and establishment of a drug-free zone at the Swinging Bridge.

Police Chief Christopher Lewis said after the meeting that traffic at Monument Place and Mallet Drive has raised some concerns, but statistics do not show they are high-crash locations. He said speed does not appear to be a factor in crashes; rather, most incidents have been a result of drivers coming out of Mallett Drive too early and hitting vehicles traveling along Monument Place.

The chief said the board asked him to look into installation of a caution light, along with additional street lighting, at the intersection.

At the other intersection the board discussed, Main and Pleasant streets, reports show crashes due to inattentive drivers or operating under the influence, resulting in rear-end collisions. Lewis said the board asked him to look into prohibiting drivers from passing on the right, since Selectman Ron Riendeau said motorists have been riding on the curb to get past vehicles waiting to left from Main Street onto Pleasant Street.

Since a driver riding a curb would, by state law, be passing improperly, the question is whether Topsham should draft an ordinance barring all passing on the right on Main Street, the chief said.

The Board of Selectmen also discussed parking concerns at Pleasant and Elm Street. Parking was allowed on the west side of Pleasant Street when a library stood there, but the narrow width of the road causes traffic to have to turn into the oncoming lane in order to get around parked cars, raising the potential of an accident with a vehicle heading north from Elm onto Pleasant.

Town Manager Cornell Knight said Lewis will report back on proposed changes to the ordinance that would ban parking on the west side of Pleasant Street.

The board also talked about a request from resident Jeff Deletetsky to establish a drug-free zone at the Swinging Bridge.

Since 2005, Lewis reported, there have been 10 arrests or summonses related to drugs, mostly due to traffic stops at that location. There have also been five alcohol offenses (not including warnings); 75 disorderly conduct complaints, which includes general disturbance of the peace and public drinking; 30 calls for criminal mischief; 102 for suspicious activity; four for littering, and one for an illegal camp fire.

However, since installation of the Riverwalk path, the number of complaints have decreased, Knight said, adding that Lewis reported that police have conducted 18 patrols since early May, and have seen no violations.

“They’ll monitor the area, and if they see a problem developing, that a sign would assist in their enforcement, then they’ll come back and ask for a sign to be put up,” Knight said.

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

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.