Does anyone know what a “Traffic Stop Bar” is?

When you arrive at an intersection, there may be a wide, white, painted stripe on the road surface in front of your vehicle. That white painted stripe is the Traffic Stop Bar, placed on the surface of the road to visually tell a motorist you are supposed to stop behind the bar if there is a red light, or stop sign and stay there until the traffic signal changes to green or if the road is clear to cross or turn after stopping.

At an intersection with a heavy volume of traffic, especially trucks, like the interesction of Routes 25 and 114 in downtown Gorham, stop bars are on the road surface, spaced at measured locations in each traffic lane for a darn good reason – to give the drivers of petroleum tanker trailer trucks enough room so they can safely make the left- or right-hand turns at that intersection, without wiping out utility poles, corners of buildings – or waiting vehicles at the intersection, who want to be as close to the traffic light as they can be when their green arrow or light comes on.

This letter is being written on a sunny Sunday morning – the first in over a month, and one hour after witnessing a “close call” between a Westbrook Fire Department Engine from the Central Fire Station and a motorist, at the intersection of Cumberland Street and Bridge Street. Immediately behind the engine was a Westbrook Rescue Unit.

For me, this was the second time, at the same intersection, with the WFD equipment’s sirens screaming and making the same right-hand turn from Cumberland Street to Bridge Street, that I shuddered – just like the bright red engine shuddered, slamming on its brakes as the driver was making the turn, with a single

silver-gray compact car apparently glued to the pavement, and beyond the stop bar at the bottom of the downhill slope of Bridge Street in the right-hand lane. I stood, transfixed in front of Severino’s Store, watching the wide front bumper of the WFD Engine swinging to the right, closer and closer to the small car’s

driver’s side door – and the brakes suddenly bringing it to a jolting halt – the front bumper fractions of an inch away from the car. The WFD driver did a remarkable job, avoiding a nasty encounter at 10:50 a.m. on a sunny, quiet Sunday morning.

Now, go back in time a couple months – at the same intersection, only on a weekday, late afternoon, around 5:20 p.m., gridlock conditions, waiting traffic at all four corners of Cumberland and Bridge Streets – impatient drivers, customers coming and going from Severino’s Store. Suddenly, the wailing of sirens shatters the quiet afternoon commute. I decided to stay on the stairs just outside the store entrance, instead of walking toward my parked car to head home to Falmouth Street, in the midst of all the traffic and approaching sirens.

A WFD Engine and a rescue unit came flying up Cumberland Street, and was about to turn right, up Bridge Street, when the driver slammed on his brakes. On the downhill side of Bridge Street, facing west, with the traffic light on red, there were two stopped rows of vehicles, stretching uphill back toward the

entrance to Congin School, with both rows of vehicles well past the stop bar. Is Bridge Street at this intersection, legally a single lane on each side or is it a two lane road on the downhill side?

The engine operator backed up twice, to try to shorten the turning radius – since absolutely nobody in either of the two lanes of stopped vehicles made any attempt to back up to give the engine more turning space. The engine driver, then made a wider swing, taking the left side of the Engine slightly over

the middle line of Cumberland Street, to make the right-hand uphill turn. As this was taking place, a bright green small Chevy Blazer, coming down Cumberland Street from the River Road side, apparently had a green light, but its driver suddenly saw a bright red fire engine making a wide swing in the Blazer’s traffic

lane. In front of Severino’s store, there is an asphalt curb and “No Parking” signs – there also was a bank of plowed snow. I personally saw the green blazer’s right-hand tires carve a path thru that snow bank, as the WFD Engine simultaneously made its third attempt and, thank God, successful turn up Bridge Street.

I hope these eyewitness descriptions make people shake – they darn well better make you shudder and stop to think. Later that evening and in the papers the next day, came the reason the WFD equipment was called out – a home fire up on the Methodist Road.

While debate and discussion goes on concerning where to secure funds to upgrade William L. Clarke Drive and what to do with Saccarappa Park, can reasonable minds come up with a decision to relocate the traffic stop bar on the downhill side of Bridge Street at Cumberland Street – perhaps moving it back

enough car lengths to allow our city’ s fire and rescue equipment and school buses enough turning radius room, along with a Very Prominent Sign pointing out that “All Traffic Will Stop Here on a Red Light ” – behind the stop bar, in order to prevent what could be a very tragic, disruptive and costly accident between a WFD vehicle, possibly also a Westbrook Rescue Unit and accompanying personal injuries to the vehicle’s operators and associated drivers of other vehicles involved.

Dennis Marrotte


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