Topsham selectmen OK Lower Village roundabout study

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on Aug. 6 unanimously approved funding a feasibility study for a roundabout in the Lower Village.

The town hired Tom Errico, a traffic engineer with the T.Y. Lynn firm, to conduct the $30,000 study. Half the funding will come from Topsham Development funds, and the rest from the town’s Professional Services account, according to John Shattuck, director of economic and community development.

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

An embedded crosswalk light breaks often, Shattuck said, and is not easily visible on sunny days, or when snow covers the lights, Shattuck said.

“It can be kind of scary to get across both lanes,” he said.

“Pedestrian sanctuaries” would be located in the center of the streets leading into the roundabout, so that walkers would only have to cross one lane at a time, Shattuck explained. The roundabout would also slow traffic to facilitate better driver awareness of pedestrians.

“A roundabout … processes traffic much faster than a signal, in terms of getting through the intersection,” Shattuck noted. “(But) the traffic actually goes through the intersection slower.”

A roundabout could cost about $1 million to build, Shattuck said. The town is looking to have its construction coincide with the Maine Department of Transportation’s repair or replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which spans the Androscoggin River to Brunswick.

DOT plans to start that work in 2017, and Topsham “will be able to leverage additional savings if we are prepared to construct the roundabout at the same time – not to mention that we would be minimizing construction impacts on our Lower Village businesses and residents,” Shattuck said in a July 28 memo to town officials.

In order to meet that schedule, the feasibility study must be completed this year, giving residents enough information to decide at the May 2016 Town Meeting whether to build the roundabout, Shattuck added.

The Lower Village Development Committee has been advocating for a roundabout since a traffic study of the Lower Village was completed in early 2013, he noted.

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

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How a roundabout would fit in Topsham's Lower Village, at the intersection of Main Street with Summer Street and Bowdoin Mill Island.

How a roundabout would fit in Topsham’s Lower Village, at the intersection of Main Street with Summer Street and Bowdoin Mill Island.

How a roundabout would fit in Topsham’s Lower Village, at the intersection of Main Street with Summer Street and Bowdoin Mill Island.

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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.
  • Chew H Bird

    Hopefully this “study” might also include combining the left hand turn problem for people heading to Topsham (from Brunswick) who try to turn left to head to the Topsham Mall prior to the traffic light.

    • Scott Harriman

      I’ve never had trouble turning left where you mention, but you can also go up the hill to the traffic light and wait for a left turn arrow there.

      • Chew H Bird

        Traffic is backed up daily because people do not want to go the the light, especially during winter months.