GORHAM – The state plans another roundabout in Gorham aimed at improving safety at one of Maine’s most dangerous intersections.

In a public meeting Monday in Gorham, Department of Transportation officials unveiled a design for a $1.7 million roundabout where New Portland and Brackett roads intersect with Libby Avenue.

State highway officials have designated the intersection as a “high crash location,” citing 18 accidents in one reporting period. Officials previously had cited 24 accidents there between 2005 and 2007. An accident at the intersection claimed the life of a Gorham woman in 2008.

The state hopes to start roundabout construction in the spring. The three roads are heavily traveled by rush-hour commuters.

“It’s a good fit for this particular safety problem,” said Albert Godfrey Jr. of Terra Magna Services Inc. in Gardiner, who is a consulting engineer for the state, at Monday’s meeting.

Godfrey said the crash rate is five times higher than similar intersections and is unacceptable.

The plan is not the state’s first attempt to improve safety at the intersection and would require land acquisitions and easements from neighbors of the project.

Joe Wyman, owner of Wyman’s Auto Body at the intersection, said in Monday’s meeting some of his property was taken for highway improvement on New Portland Road 11 years ago.

“You’ve taken enough of my property. How much more can you take by eminent domain?” he asked.

Besides the roundabout, the project would include reconstruction of 400 feet on each road leading up to the intersection. Both Brackett Road and Libby Avenue were rebuilt in recent years.

A radar-activated flashing sign on New Portland Road would warn motorists to reduce speed approaching a new roundabout.

“We’re trying to make this intersection safer,” the state’s project manager, Jim Mansir, said.

Wyman said Tuesday the state, according to its plans, wants to relocate the main entrance of his business to an adjacent lot he owns.

“That’s a buildable lot,” Wyman said.

Wyman faulted the state’s design to improve safety at the intersection in an upgrade 11 years ago. He said if the hilltop on New Portland Road had been lowered, “you wouldn’t have this problem today.”

Besides property acquisitions, other abutters worried about exiting driveways and the construction cost.

Denise Holmes, who lives at the corner of New Portland and Brackett roads, feared motorists would have problems driving through a roundabout at that site.

“It’s going to jam everything up,” Holmes said.

“If done properly, they work very well,” Mansir said.

Godfrey said that it does take time for drivers to adjust to driving the roundabouts. A roundabout at the intersection would be the fifth in Gorham. “Gorham has a leg up on several communities,” Godfrey said.

Cost of the roundabout, which was estimated in 2009 to cost $1.2 million, surfaced as an issue. But, before the meeting, Gorham Town Manager David Cole said the town wouldn’t be required to help pay for the cost of a roundabout construction. Gorham would have to pay to maintain lighting.

Cole said roundabout construction money would come from a state safety project fund.

Mansir said the $1.7 million construction cost is 25 percent higher than anticipated, but he believed money would be found to cover the project.

The intersection now has a flashing traffic light blinking yellow on New Portland Road and flashing red on both Brackett Road and Libby Avenue. Also, elevated stop signs have been installed to heighten awareness on both sides of Libby Avenue and Brackett Road.

Instead of a roundabout, Cliff Perry, a 30-year Libby Avenue resident, favored a less costly red light traffic signal mounted similar to one at Mosher’s Corner in Gorham, where routes 25 and 237 intersect. Perry said the roundabout project would be pretty close to the front door of the body shop.

But Godfrey said a red light signal, which would cost upwards of $250,000, would cause backups on the highway.

“Roundabouts are far more efficient,” Godfrey said.

Nathan and Sheri Danforth of New Portland Road say they often have to wait 5 to 10 minutes to pull out of their driveway.

“We’re having a hard time now,” Nathan Danforth said, and added the roundabout would prolong the wait.

Godfrey disagreed. “It’ll be safer pulling out,” he said.

Amy Valentine of Libby Avenue worried that drivers circling the roundabout in the winter wouldn’t be able make the big hill on Libby Avenue. Godfrey said the roundabout would be designed for an operating speed of 20 to 25 mph, allowing drivers more momentum.

Responding to a question from William Heil of Libby Avenue, Mansir said a park-and-ride lot would not be part of the project.

Paul Erskine of New Portland Road asked that water mains be extended as part of the project. Mansir said while the Department of Transportation doesn’t install water mains, it would work with another entity.

Gorham has a roundabout in Little Falls and three at intersections on the Bernard P. Rines Highway, which is the bypass around Gorham Village.


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