WATERVILLE, Maine — Waterville officials are trying to find solutions to the speeding problem along a state and federal road after a motorcyclist was killed in a crash there last week and residents expressed safety concerns.
Resident Nancy Sanford brought the issue of people speeding on Route 201, locally named College Avenue, to city councilors Tuesday night.
As the city undergoes millions of dollars in redevelopment projects, officials would likely encounter red tape when it comes to College Avenue. The street is a four-lane state and federal highway, so the city doesn’t have control over what happens there, City Manager Stephen Daly said Wednesday.
Taking a deeper look at traffic and speeding along College Avenue would fall in line with ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Waterville and make the city more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. Work to change Main and Front streets from one- to two-way traffic and reconfigure connecting streets like College Avenue, among other road construction and paving, is in the works, Daly said.
These projects are expected to wrap up in October or November, he said.
Speeding became a more timely topic following the collision between a motorcyclist and a Kennebec Valley Community Action Program van near the intersection of College Avenue and Crescent Street on Sept. 1. Motorcyclist Akram Mohammad, 30, who recently opened an Iraqi market and deli not far from the crash, died.
“The accident illustrates my point since speed was reported to be a likely element in the cause of the accident,” Sanford said, referring to information released by police.
Police are still investigating, but early findings indicate Mohammad lost control and crossed the centerline before colliding with the van, according to the Morning Sentinel.
Sanford, who has lived in Waterville since 1988 and on May Street since 1991, has traveled College Avenue thousands of times. Over the years, the speed at which vehicles travel there has only increased, she said.
Often, motorists pursue Sanford too closely as she follows the speed limit, she said. Other cars weave in and out of the two lanes in either direction to maintain the speed they are going, she said.
“I cringe every time I see a pedestrian crossing College Avenue, fearing a car will not be able to slow down in time so as not to hit them,” she said.
There are three crosswalks on College Avenue — at the United States Postal Service, at the intersection with Hazelwood Avenue and at paper-plate making plant Huhtamaki, Daly said.
Sanford suggested that the city install traffic lights and a crosswalk on College Avenue near Cumberland Farms, an area where she has noticed a number of pedestrians crossing the street.
Putting a crosswalk there makes sense, especially with a housing development going up nearby, but slowing traffic in a 35-mile-per-hour zone does not, Mayor Jay Coelho said.
The city’s housing committee has discussed implementing bicycle lanes or a border in the middle of the street, among other options, Council Chair Rebecca Green said, though she wasn’t sure what would be permissible by the Maine Department of Transportation.
“That pace isn’t really conducive to a residential area,” she said. “I think we should take a look at this and see what we can do to prevent it from becoming a highway any more than it already is.”
The city is limited with what it can do on College Avenue, but staff can inquire about installing signals or devices to make the crosswalks safer, Daly said.
The city’s next step is to contact Maine DOT officials to learn about its options to address concerns, he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the street name where Nancy Sanford lives.