SCARBOROUGH – One of southern Maine’s busiest intersections is about to get major improvements, with a project that state officials predict will reduce traffic at Dunstan Corner by 20 percent.

The Maine Department of Transportation presented its final engineering plans Tuesday night for the intersection where Route 1, Payne Road, Pine Point Road and Broadturn Road converge.

“This is our final stab at it, but I’m not saying we can’t change (the design plan),” said Ernie Martin, the Department of Transportation’s project manager.

About 25 people attended Tuesday’s hearing, which was the final public meeting before the state seeks contractors’ bids for the project.

Earlier this year, the town of Scarborough allocated its share, $850,000, toward the $3.35 million project.

Martin said the project will likely be put out for bids in the spring, with construction starting as soon as August.

Bottlenecks and long waits in traffic at Dunstan Corner are common, especially during the summer. State officials said the intersection can handle as many as 33,000 vehicles a day. Martin said the actual volume is 23,000 to 33,000 a day.

The proposed improvements run the gamut, from new sidewalks, new traffic lights, raised traffic islands and improved turning lanes to new paving, improved drainage and slightly wider roadways.

The most significant change would convert the section of Payne Road closest to Route 1 into a dead-end street. Martin said a new section of Payne Road would be built just north of Dunstan Corner.

Martin said the new Payne Road would still connect with Route 1 but would be less direct. That should push drivers who would normally take that route onto the Haigis Parkway — a Route 1 connector road about a mile north of Dunstan Corner.

The dead-end section of the old Payne Road would remain open so that drivers could access the businesses there. Drivers just wouldn’t be able to use that section to get on Route 1.

“This portion of Payne Road will become nothing more than a glorified driveway,” said Don Ettinger, the project’s designer.

As a result, Ettinger and Martin predicted a 20 percent overall reduction in traffic at Dunstan Corner.

Payne Road is now used by drivers who commute between the Maine Mall in South Portland and Dunstan Corner.

“The town doesn’t want Payne Road to be a commuter road,” Ettinger said. “They want it to be a residential road.”

The Dunstan Corner improvements are part of a broader effort to ease traffic congestion, improve safety and make Route 1 more convenient for drivers.

Last summer, construction crews completed a $2.35 million, town-funded improvement project at the intersection of Route 1 and the Haigis Parkway. That project included new turning lanes, lights and traffic islands, landscaping and stone columns.

The town wanted to give the Haigis Parkway intersection a more distinguished look because it is the gateway to Scarborough for drivers coming off the Maine Turnpike.

Most people who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they liked the proposed traffic improvements, though a few expressed concerns.

“The whole area is a great area for bicycling, but I haven’t heard anything about bike lanes,” said Scott Berube, who lives in the Dunstan Corner neighborhood. “I can’t see building roads and not having bike lanes. Doing away with bike lanes is contrary to the future of this country.”

Town Planner Dan Bacon said the design plan doesn’t include bicycle lanes because planners are trying to minimize the impact on landowners. Bike lanes would require wider roads.

Bacon said the town is encouraging bicyclists to use the Eastern Trail in Scarborough as an alternative to Route 1.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]