Topsham's Winter Street traffic tweak gets mixed reviews

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TOPSHAM — A temporary traffic change at the intersection of Winter and Main streets will continue through Nov. 16, when the Board of Selectmen is due to decide whether to continue the test or make the change permanent.

During the trial, the last block of Winter Street where it intersects with Main Street has been changed to one-way traffic. Left-hand turns from Main Street onto Winter Street are prohibited; motorists instead turn left about 250 feet north onto Elm Street Extension, which connects to Winter Street.

A left turn lane and signal have already existed on Main Street as it intersects with Elm Street Extension, a short one-way street.

“At present, cars stopping on Main Street to take a left turn onto Winter Street routinely cause backups in the northbound lane, because there is no turning lane at this location,” John Shattuck, Topsham’s economic and community development director, said in July. “This congestion is particularly frequent and disruptive during commuting hours.”

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the trial Aug. 3. The new pattern took effect Sept. 18.

The panel will hold a workshop at the Topsham Municipal Building, 100 Main St., at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, to hear public comment on the change.

The town has has received 35 responses by email and phone, including 28 from Topsham residents, Shattuck reported to the Board of Selectmen Oct. 19. Sixty percent liked the new pattern, he said.

Supporters lauded the reduced congestion and increased safety on Main Street, and slower speeds on Winter Street. Another reported advantage was an end to risky left-hand turns from Main Street onto Winter Street, against oncoming southbound traffic.

Opponents reported too much traffic and speeding motorists on Elm Street Extension, and negative impacts on two residences at that intersection with Main Street due to traffic and noise. Concerns were also expressed about turns onto Elm Street Extension being more difficult in wintry conditions.

Many respondents called for Elm Street Extension to be improved, and for that road to allow two-way traffic, which would ease eastern access from Winter Street to Elm Street.

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

Topsham is experimenting with restricting the last block of Winter Street, where it intersects with Main Street, to one-way traffic. Vehicles can only head toward Main Street from Winter Street, and are not allowed to turn left from Main onto Winter.

This Google image shows the intersection of Main Street in Topsham with Winter Street and Elm Street Extension. The top road listed as Winter Street should be labelled Elm Street Extension. The town is testing the prohibition of left-hand turns from Main Street onto Winter Street; motorists instead turn left about 250 feet north onto Elm Street Extension, which connects to Winter Street.

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.