TOPSHAM — A proposal that could have led to a traffic change on the Black Bridge was defeated by the Board of Selectmen May 7 by a vote of 3-2.
The proposal would have prohibited traffic traveling from Topsham from turning left onto Mill Street (Route 1) in Brunswick. The change would have required a sign on the Brunswick side of the bridge informing drivers of the restriction.
Selectman Michelle Derr said she had heard from two residents about safety issues on the bridge, and the town had heard from one resident of Topsham’s Heights neighborhood who was concerned about making changes there.
Jeff Deletesky of the Topsham Heights Neighborhood Association, one of the two who had expressed concerns, said “I believe (the change) would allow us to alleviate a lot of traffic issues.”
He added that if left turns onto Mill Street were prohibited, “it would take care of half the issues that I see there.”
Derr said she saw one case of congestion in which one vehicle had been waiting to make a left turn from the bridge onto Mill Street, while four vehicles on Mill waited to turn left onto the bridge.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re facing there,” she said. “It really has become very busy and very unsafe at certain times of the day.”
Deletesky said it is dangerous for bridge travelers to turn left onto Mill Street and cross two lanes of traffic in an area where vehicles often exceed the 35 mph speed limit.
Dorothy Riendeau of North Street said vehicles approaching the bridge on the Brunswick side should also not be allowed to turn left onto it, since they, too, are crossing traffic.
She added that Brunswick should be involved in any discussions about traffic pattern changes.
“We cannot legislate for the town of Brunswick,” board Chairman Ron Riendeau agreed.
Topsham Public Works Director Ron Pontau pointed out that since a Maine Department of Transportation bridge is in question, that agency would also have to be brought into the matter.
“I really think that we need to involve everybody in the discussion,” he said, “… because we are effectively controlling traffic in three different jurisdictions with one sign.”
Riendeau said he had spoken to about five people who expressed a desire for the bridge traffic patterns to remain as they are. Regina Leonard of Bridge Street went to the podium to say she agreed with leaving it alone.
Selectman Sandra Consolini recommended bringing more residents into the discussion in order to gain more input than just the few voices heard.
Selectman Jim Trusiani said he thought the Brunswick Town Council would have already addressed the issue if it had become noteworthy on that side of the bridge.
“The fact that you might have to wait 30 seconds, 40 seconds, because there’s a little traffic, that happens all the time everywhere,” he said, “so I’m going to say leave it alone.”
Derr countered that bridge traffic presents a major problem many times a day.
She initially motioned to have Town Manager Jim Ashe draft a letter to DOT on behalf of the Board of Selectmen asking it to consider a sign prohibiting left-turn access onto Mill Street.
Pontau said he has dealt with DOT in similar situations and found that if both towns agree to such a change, DOT will consent to it, too. Derr then moved instead to have Ashe contact the Brunswick Town Council about the matter.
Derr and Consolini voted in favor of the motion, while Riendeau, Trusiani and Steve Edmondson were opposed.
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.