A speed hump in California. Mount Desert officials have decided not to install speed humps in Seal Harbor to slow down traffic there.

Speed hump plan falls flat

MOUNT DESERT — The town will not be installing traffic-slowing “speed humps” in Seal Harbor this summer.

On the recommendation of Police Chief Jim Willis and Public Works Director Tony Smith, the Board of Selectmen on May 2 approved the installation of two speed humps on a trial basis on Main Street in response to citizen complaints about vehicles speeding through the village.

But the two department heads have since changed their minds. Smith said in a memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt that their decision not to install the speed humps was based on “information from legal counsel, the labor-intensive seasonal installation and removal of the speed humps and the associated liability assumed by the town.”

Smith had described speed humps as “a gentler version of speed bumps.” Made of recycled rubberized material, they would have created a three-inch-high plateau across both traffic lanes that stretched seven to 10 feet along the roadway. Smith said the Maine Department of Transportation had offered to give the town materials for two speed humps that originally had been ordered for another project and are now in storage.

However, upon further evaluation, Smith and Willis identified potential legal and practical obstacles.

“[If] a motorist goes over the speed humps and spills hot coffee and burns himself or someone else or just loses control of the vehicle, can a case be made that our discretionary decision was bad and create a liability situation for the town? More than likely it would,” Smith said in his May 24 memo to Lunt.

He also cited another possible scenario: “A section of the speed hump becomes loose or dislodged and damages someone’s vehicle or forces them out of their travel lane.”

Aside from the legal concerns, Smith said it turned out that installing the speed humps in late spring and then removing them in the fall would have been more problematic than he had anticipated.

“We would have to drill a minimum of 216 holes about four-inches deep … in the pavement, pound in anchors, then set bolts and seal the anchors … ,” he said. “Continued installation and removal will eventually damage the roadway surface.”

Smith said he and Willis will continue to use “alternative traffic calming measures,” including the digital speed indicator signs that can be moved from place to place.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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