Scarborough is taking steps to make its busy Oak Hill area more welcoming to pedestrians.

The Town Council is seeking candidates for a new advisory committee to study the area and come up with a plan. Using a $40,000 grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, the town will hire a consultant to work with the group on the study.

Oak Hill encompasses a high-traffic portion of Route 1, shopping centers and the municipal campus, as well as neighborhoods, schools and the area around the Eastern Trail. The town’s comprehensive plan calls for Oak Hill to be Scarborough’s community center, with links between its various parts and a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

The Ad Hoc Oak Hill Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee will inventory pedestrian infrastructure, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and trails, see how they work within the area and determine how the situation can be improved. The committee will present its report, including concrete suggestions and possible funding sources, to the Town Council by September.

The committee will consider questions like sidewalk design, whether crossings are adequate and how to better connect residents around Sawyer Road and Commerce Drive to other parts of Oak Hill, said Assistant Town Planner Jay Chace.

“It’s really taking a look at how can we make those connections,” he said.

While Scarborough Grounds is on a busy stretch of Route 1 across from the municipal building, the coffee shop draws customers who arrive on foot despite multiple lanes of traffic, said Jonathan Gates, the owner.

“You’d be surprised. The houses around here, they’ve been converted to workplaces,” he said. “Someone will pop out, they’ll shoot back to work.”

Anyone who goes to the Scarborough Public Library from the municipal campus can stroll over on sidewalks, but some patrons have to brave less pedestrian-friendly routes, said Nancy Crowell, the library’s director.

“People would be surprised at the number of people who live in condominiums and apartments in the area. They do have to walk along the shoulder, on Gorham Road in particular,” Crowell said.

Library patrons increasingly want to be able to walk to the library, Crowell said. That impulse helped guide the library’s construction of its new parking area, which included new sidewalks, better lighting and crosswalks, she said.

The advisory committee will include residents, a business owner, a town councilor, a Planning Board member, and staff members from the Planning Department, the Public Works Department, the Community Services Department and the School Department. Candidates can apply through the town clerk.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: akim@pressherald.com