Traffic is backed up on Route 1 in Belfast as construction crews replaced pavement on the Goose River bridge in this June 15, 2022, file photo. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

The city of Belfast is working with the state and federal departments of transportation to improve intersections along Route 1.

That work begins with a $675,0000 improvement project funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve the safety and accessibility of the Route 1, Congress and Lower Congress streets intersection, which is one of several Belfast would like to improve for added safety and walkability.

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, City Manager Erin Herbig said that the intersection will be updated in 2025 with street lights and pathways to create pedestrian access. 

“There’s been a lot of growth in that section of town. A lot of increase in traffic and pedestrian activity,” Herbig said.

According to a 2019 traffic study, there were eight car crashes at the Congress Street intersection between 2016 and 2018. That rate is higher than other intersections around that area but not high enough to establish a pattern of accidents that “indicate any correctable type safety deficiency,” the study states.

The city is also working with the Maine Department of Transportation to improve at least two other intersections on Route 1, including adding a lane at the intersection of routes 1 and 52, along with more street lights and crosswalks. 

“That’s a really rough intersection,” Mayor Eric Sanders said. “[We need] to handle the public safety needs that have been consistently brought to our attention in the last 15 years.”

City Councilor Mike Hurley, who met with the Maine Department of Transportation, has floated the idea of a traffic circle at routes 1 and 141 in East Belfast.

“There’s real issues over there because of the configuration of 141 being close to the bridge and they don’t want backup on the bridge,” Hurley said. 

The city is also looking to implement traffic lights with movement sensors across the town.

They’re hoping to receive a 50 percent match from the Maine Department of Transportation for the work. There’s currently a $375,000 estimate for the work at routes 1 and 52.

The timeline for projects at routes 52 and 141 is unclear. The Maine Department of Transportation’s current information states improvement projects would begin in May 2023, but Herbig said the city has received indications that the project will be pushed back by a year or two.

“It’s [the state transportation department] — they have these long, long timelines,” Planning and Codes Director Bub Fournier said.