MOUNT DESERT — Police Chief Jim Willis will ask the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider lowering the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 through the commercial area of Somesville to prepare southbound drivers for the lower speed limit that already exists on Main Street in the residential part the village.
The Board of Selectmen on Monday night authorized Willis to make that request in response to complaints about traffic speed from several Somesville residents.
One of them, Gail Marshall, noted that coming south from Town Hill on Route 102 the speed limit goes from 50 to 40 to 30 over a very short distance. The 30 mph sign is across the road from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust offices at the northern end of the built-up area.
“Why not make it 25 starting at that 30 mile an hour spot and get people used to the idea that by the time they get into the (residential) area they’ve got to be doing 25?” Marshall said. “Why let them get a head of steam up and then have to slow down once they’re already in Somesville?”
Marshall, who lives on Hibbards Hill Road, said that turning onto Main Street is “scary at times.”
“It has always been something that requires caution, but my sense is that it is getting worse,” she said.
“If [drivers] are not obeying the speed limit, I have had near-death experiences with dump trucks, pickup trucks … It’s not just summer people.”
Debra Deal, who lives on Main Street, told the selectmen, “When my kids stand out front, I am motioning to construction company trucks that are flying through and I am pointing at my kids. And it’s not just the trucks; it’s cars, too.”
Police Lt. David Kearns said the department has placed speed-monitoring devices at various locations on Main Street in Somesville where the speed limit is 25 for a total of about 60 days over the past three years.
“We measured about a quarter of a million vehicles going by, and the average speed was 27 to 30 miles an hour,” he said. “Obviously, there are offending vehicles that are well over the speed limit.”
Chief Willis said the DOT will conduct traffic studies at the request of municipalities.
“The work is done by traffic engineers with a specific formula [for determining appropriate speed limits] that they use throughout the state,” he said.
But he cautioned that, if there is a reduction of the speed limit on the northern stretch of Main Street in Somesville, it won’t happen immediately.
“The last speed study we asked for took two years, so it is going to take some time,” he said.
In the meantime, he said, “We can do some targeted [speed limit] enforcement in Somesville with patrols as we’re able to.”
And he said he would work with Public Works Director Tony Smith on “traffic calming measures,” such as the installation of signs that display a vehicle’s speed.