Downtown Dover-Foxcroft and the Piscataquis River, pictured Friday. Credit: Valerie Royzman / BDN

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Dover-Foxcroft is gearing up to study and plan improvements to its downtown, with an emphasis on pedestrian safety and reducing traffic congestion.

Town leaders have been working with the Maine Department of Transportation on addressing time-sensitive feasibility studies and locally initiated planning outside MaineDOT’s annual work cycle, according to the agency’s website.

On Monday night, the Dover-Foxcroft Select Board considered a scope of services draft. The board voted unanimously to contract with MaineDOT, though one member was absent.

The study is a promising step for Piscataquis County’s largest town which is home to more than 4,400 people and like other rural communities has struggled with development due to limited funds and resources. It means ideas outlined in a revitalization plan from 2003 that never fully came to fruition may happen, and the future improvements are meant to align with the town’s economic goals.

“What this is going to do is look at all the initiatives we’ve worked on, really, over the past 20 years in terms of improving the downtown area for traffic, sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrians,” Town Manager Jack Clukey said at Monday’s meeting, noting the town asked that the project include Essex Street, where MaineDOT already plans to replace the Dover Bridge.

Now is an opportune time for the town to get involved because federal funding is available, particularly for rural towns, he said.

The study’s primary focus is to improve active transportation connectivity, along with pedestrian crossings and streetscape enhancements, according to a document detailing the scope of the project. Most of the focus areas mention wayfinding and improving sidewalks, which includes making sure they are accessible to those with disabilities.

Another component is bettering access to local seaplanes and water-based transportation.

Townspeople should not expect comprehensive traffic modeling or intersection analysis with this study, and any changes related to parking would be minimal, according to the document.

It outlines nine priorities for the study, which include reviewing the 2020 Dover-Foxcroft Urban Area Study and 2003 downtown master plan, along with updating cost estimates for both. Those involved will reevaluate the Monument Square intersection, the intersection of Summer and North streets near the post office and South Street for future highway treatment to account for reconstruction, pedestrian safety changes and utilities and drainage.

The study will also analyze active transportation in the study area, work on the Route 7 entrance into town, conduct a limited parking analysis, and finally, coordinate with organizations handling the Mayo Mill dam project.

The partnership includes assessing future traffic volume and providing a 2045 forecast based on data and development or land use changes underway.

A Complete Streets grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation will cover some of the town’s share of the project cost, but Dover-Foxcroft will need to provide a match of 20 percent, according to information on the meeting agenda.

Clukey did not provide a project timeline. Once a kick-off meeting with town officials and MaineDOT occurs, it takes about nine months to draft a plan, then from three to four years before improvements happen, according to a regional transportation planner who presented to community leaders in September.

MaineDOT will offer the public multiple chances to provide feedback on the project, Select Board member Thomas Lizotte said.