MOUNT DESERT — Virtually none of the roughly 50 pedestrian crosswalks in town conforms to Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines or Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, Public Works Director Tony Smith told the Board of Selectmen Monday night.
He has suggested that 18 of the crosswalks might be eliminated and that others should be improved.
“These improvements will likely range in cost from expensive to very expensive,” he said in a June 28 memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt.
Smith and the town’s highway superintendent, Ben Jacobs, attended a DOT workshop on crosswalk design, location and safety in May. Smith said he realized after the workshop that “most of our crosswalks are noncompliant.”
He has proposed hiring a traffic engineer sometime in the future to evaluate all of the town’s existing crosswalks and to provide recommendations for “eliminating those that should be eliminated, leaving some as they presently are and improving those we can improve.”
A preliminary evaluation of the town’s crosswalks was conducted May 10 by Smith, Jacobs and Patrick Adams, the DOT’s manager of bicycle and pedestrian programs. Most of the problems they identified had to do with location, sight distance, signage and handicap accessibility.
In his report on the results of the review, Adams recommended the removal of 20 crosswalks. One of those is on Route 102 at Acadia Repertory Theatre in Somesville. Adams described it as a crosswalk that “doesn’t take the pedestrian from anywhere to anywhere.”
Of the 20 crosswalks that he recommended eliminating, Smith said he agreed with the removal of 12. Adams identified nine crosswalks as high priorities for improvements and six as low priorities. Smith has suggested the elimination of five crosswalks on Adams’s high-priority list and one on his low-priority list.
An alternative to eliminating crosswalks, Smith said in his memo to Lunt, is to repaint all of them to increase their visibility “and assume the liability for them as we have always done.”
“There are, however, a number of legal professionals willing to represent individuals who suffer injuries due to inappropriate crosswalks with the support of the ADA.”
Several crosswalks that existed when the assessment was conducted May 10 are no longer there because of the repaving last month of Route 3 from Upper Dunbar Road in Seal Harbor to the intersection with Route 198 and from that intersection to Summit Road in Northeast Harbor.
Smith said he does not plan to repaint the crosswalks on those stretches of roads that he thinks are unnecessary. Those include the crosswalks on Peabody Drive (Route 3) at the Asticou Inn and Azalea Gardens, at the sharp turn at the Asticou Inn and at the steps leading to Thuya Gardens.
Also on the not-to-be-painted list are the crosswalks at Little Long Pond, at the intersection of Route 3 and Jordan Pond Road in Seal Harbor and on the northern approach to downtown Northeast Harbor on Route 198.
Smith indicated he won’t be surprised if he hears some complaints.
“I can field questions over the summer as to why we didn’t paint the crosswalks,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Selectman Martha Dudman expressed concern about the safety implications of not replacing crosswalk markings.
“People are still going to walk in those places where they’ve always walked, only now there won’t be any reason for a car to stop,” she said.
Smith said some of the crosswalks in town were not officially authorized or properly sited in the first place.
“Over the years, I’m sure somebody asked somebody to ask somebody to paint a crosswalk,” he said.