BAR HARBOR — The Maine Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans for reconstruction of Route 3 include a traffic signal at the intersection of Mount Desert Street and Eden Street.
On Tuesday, councilors approved an agreement with the DOT committing the town to operate and maintain the signal and six pedestrian crossing beacons. The agreement is an appendix to a larger municipal-state agreement detailing the town’s responsibilities for the $18 million project, which includes rebuilding the state highway between Ireson Hill near Pirate’s Cove mini golf and Mount Desert Street downtown.
“They will own the traffic light, but we will maintain it – we have to maintain it to their standards,” Town Manager Cornell Knight said. The DOT will buy and install the light as part of rebuilding the intersection, he said, and the town will not take over operation of the signal until the project is completed in June of 2019.
The vote was 5-2, with councilors Gary Friedmann and Matt Hochman opposed.
“I don’t like the fact that we have to pay for a light that we did not request but that they’ve decided they’re putting in,” Hochman said.
Friedmann said he was concerned about traffic backing up on Mount Desert Street as motorists wait for the light. “I think it’s going to cause as many problems as it solves.”
Council Chair Paul Paradis said the DOT consulted traffic data, including the number of accidents at that intersection, when deciding to install the signal.
Public Works Director Chip Reeves said the annual maintenance cost should be $1,500-$2,000, based on estimates from Mount Desert on the cost of a similar signal in Somesville. He said the lights in the signals use very little electricity, and the electric cost would mostly be the base rate for a new, separate electric connection.
Councilor Clark Stivers asked what would happen if the council voted not to allow the Town Manager to sign the new agreement.
Reeves said that would hold up the project and also might prevent the DOT from putting the project out to bid, which they hope to do in the next few weeks.