SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A stretch of south Main Street that Town Manager Don Lagrange has called “probably the most unsafe area in town for pedestrians” should have a proper sidewalk, he told the board of selectmen last week.
The section of road extends nearly 1,000 feet from Wood Street, down the hill and around a curve to the entrance drive for the Village at Ocean’s End housing development.
Currently, there is a paved shoulder on the west side of the street, but it is very narrow in places. There is no curb.
“My proposal is to create a combination shoulder and bike lane, as well as a sidewalk with granite curbing,” Lagrange said. “Having a bike lane and bikeless sidewalk would make a big difference to pedestrians.”
Lagrange estimates such a project would cost between $150,000 and $200,000. He would like the town to apply to the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) for a Safe Routes to School program grant this fall to help fund the construction.
“But I would like to get started on it now and have the design done, so that when funds are available, we’ll be shovel ready,” Lagrange said.
He asked the selectmen for approval to hire Olver Associates, the engineering firm that designed the Main Street reconstruction project, to design the sidewalk project.
But board members said they first wanted him to get a design cost estimate from Olver, as well as a preliminary estimate of the cost of construction.
Several board members expressed concern about drainage problems along that stretch of Main Street.
“We’ve got to do something to deal with the water problem there before we put all kinds of money into a sidewalk,” selectman David Minctons said.
Lagrange said he thinks building the sidewalk and fixing the drainage problem would go hand in hand.
Crosswalk at Ocean’s End
At the same time, Village at Ocean’s End (VOE) wants to create a crosswalk with a traffic island to make it safer for residents of the subdivision to reach their gazebo and pier on the other side of the road.
Jeff Crafts, the original developer of VOE who now represents the subdivision, told the selectmen the crosswalk would not benefit just VOE residents.
“It will dovetail in with the sidewalk that you’ve just discussed and allow pedestrian traffic coming from town to cross over there, go along the water’s edge and eventually get around Manset Corner,” he said. “I think it would help the whole community to have a way to get across there.”
Crafts told the selectmen that VOE needed their endorsement of the concept before seeking approval from the Maine DOT.
He said raised traffic islands, such as the one being proposed, have the effect of “calming” traffic, noting that many people drive faster than the 25-mile-an-hour speed limit in that area.
The selectmen said they recognize the need for a crosswalk, but several of them expressed opposition to a six-inch-high traffic island. They cited the possibility that boats and other extra-wide loads might have trouble getting by, and they said a raised island would make snow plowing more difficult.
Board members suggested that the proposed island could be made of a different material from the roadway, such as brick or stone, but that it should be flush with the roadway. Crafts said that might be acceptable.
“I’ll be happy to take that idea to the DOT,” he said.
He and the selectmen agreed that he would draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to be signed by board chairman Dan Norwood, which Crafts can take to the DOT. The MOU will state the board’s support for the proposed crosswalk and for a flush-with-the-road traffic island.
Crafts said VOE intends to pay all costs related to the project.