BLUE HILL, Maine — The Maine Department of Transportation has begun planning for a new roundabout at the intersection of South Street and Route 15.
DOT spokesman Mark Latti said the planning process is just beginning, and actual construction could be more than a year away. The department has notified the Blue Hill Board of Selectmen of its plans, asking for help in identifying special features of that area that might affect the project.
“This really is early on in the process,” Latti said Monday. “One of the first steps in the design process is to determine if there is anything of a historic nature at that intersection that we need to be aware of.”
The intersection is a busy one that has been identified as a high-crash site. Selectman Dwayne Gray said Friday that speed, especially with vehicles coming down Mines Road (Route 15), along with driver inattention have been among the biggest problems at the intersection. Gray also said that stopped traffic waiting to make a left turn often blocks the view of drivers making a turn onto Beech Hill Road.
“There have been a number of accidents there,” Selectman Jim Schatz said. “It’s been in the top 10 in the county, and now it’s risen to the point where they can move to address it.”
There has been talk of a roundabout for that intersection for several years. When the town improved Beech Hill Road, some residents called for a stoplight at the intersection. The DOT already had installed a blinking light there in an effort to slow traffic.
A roundabout is a small traffic circle that, according to Latti, is used as a “traffic calming” device.
“It’s designed to reduce speed and minimize crashes,” he said.
According to Selectman Jim Schatz, the roundabout is different from the full traffic circles found in Augusta or the rotaries used in other states.
“People think of the ones in Augusta,” he said. “A roundabout is nothing like that. It’s a much smaller scale.”
Although the selectmen haven’t seen the design yet, Schatz and Gray registered initial support for the project.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Gray said. “Anybody who’s had experience with roundabouts all say how wonderful they are.”
Latti stressed that the project was in the very early stages. Once the department has developed a preliminary design, officials will schedule a meeting to review it with the public. That could happen as early as this spring, Latti said.
The roundabout probably would not be built until June 2012.