SCARBOROUGH – Jack Flaherty, whose family farm stand is on Payne Road in Scarborough, says he “can live with it.”

Mike Porter, whose home is on Payne Road, says the idea “looks pretty good.”

And Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall says the new plan is “cheaper and better” than others that have been considered.

They’re talking about a new proposal to build a connector spur between Payne Road and Route 1. The connector would loop around north of the Dunstan Corner Restaurant. It is expected to help relieve traffic tie-ups on Route 1 at Dunstan Corner and where it connects with Payne Road and also discourage drivers from using Payne Road as a cut through to Cabela’s and the Maine Mall.

The new plan, which is headed to the Town Council for consideration later this month, was proposed as alternative to a controversial proposal to ban left turns off Route 1 onto Payne Road.

Some residents, including Porter, supported that plan as a way to reduce traffic along Payne Road. Residents say they can’t get out of their driveways because there are too many vehicles and they’re going much faster than 35 mph speed limit.

But many businesses, such as Flaherty Family Farms, were strongly opposed to the plan, saying the loss of traffic would threaten their livelihoods. Some residents also disliked the plan, fearing the left-turn ban would make it more difficult for them to get to and from their homes.

Opponents accused the Payne Road West Study Committee, appointed by the Town Council to consider the issue, of trying to push the plan through without sufficient input from businesses.

But now the plan for the spur – developed by town staff – appears to have quelled the controversy.

“It may not make everybody 100 percent happy, but I think it’s a happy medium,” said Richard Sullivan, a town councilor who got involved in the issue after hearing complaints from businesses.

The council is expected to consider the issue at a special workshop to be scheduled sometime during the week of Oct. 12, Hall said.

The new proposal would still ban traffic traveling north on Route 1 from turning left on Payne Road. However, vehicles would only have to go a short distance – just over a tenth of a mile – to be able to turn left onto the new spur that would connect them to Payne Road.

There would be stop signs where the spur makes a T with Payne Road and traffic could go in either direction. Sullivan said the stop signs are expected to discourage commuter traffic – drivers from other communities using Payne Road as a shortcut to Cabela’s and the Maine Mall.

Because Payne Road would no longer seem like such an attractive speedy route, Sullivan said, drivers would be more likely to travel a little further on to Haigis Parkway to reach their destinations. That larger roadway is designed to take more commuter traffic.

Traffic on Payne Road is expected to be reduced by about 20 percent under the new plan, enough to help residents and not impact businesses greatly, Sullivan said.

Hall said the new connector proposal also would help improve problems with traffic flow at Dunstan Corner, and have a positive financial component for the town.

Traffic on Route 1 in the summer and at other times of year backs up as beachgoers turn from Route 1 onto Pine Point Road. A line of traffic can extend about two miles, impacting Payne Road.

Hall said the problem “has everything to do with how close those two intersections are.”

He said the town several years ago came up with one solution: build a new section of Payne Road that would cut through the Scarborough Marsh and come out on the other side of the Dunstan School Restaurant.

The proposal won approval from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, which was expected to pay for 40 percent to 50 percent of the $6 million cost of the road, with the town covering the remainder of the funding. The cost was high because that road would have gone through the wetlands, Hall said.

A deadline is approaching this month for the town to make a decision about that plan, Hall said. The town in October is slated to receive a $260,000 engineering planning grant for the project. Accepting the grant would commit the town to the original plan unless it has another one in place, Hall has said.

The new proposal to build the spur to Payne Road is a lower-cost alternative to the original plan, Hall said. The spur is essentially a shorter version of that original proposed road, and Hall said it would cost less because it won’t have to go through wetlands.

The additional grant money could then be used to make improvements to existing roads, such as Haigis Parkway, that would impacted when the spur shifts traffic away from Payne Road, Hall said.

If the council endorses the new spur proposal at its workshop meeting, it could schedule a public hearing and vote at its Oct. 21 meeting, in time to meet the deadline for Scarborough to accept the planning grant, Hall said.

Sullivan said the council might also consider other changes on Payne Road to slow traffic, such as asking the state to lower the speed limit and ban passing on the road.

Flaherty, of Flaherty Farms, said of the new Payne Road connector proposal: “I think it’s the best one they got yet…I think it will be good.”

Porter, the Payne Road resident, said: “It looks pretty good to me.”


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