The Maine Department of Transportation unveiled its plans for the intersection of Hill Road and Route 111 in Arundel at a recent public meeting ”“ and many were likely surprised to find out that those plans include a traffic light.

The DOT’s plans to create a dedicated right-hand turn lane for those traveling west from Biddeford toward Sanford have been in discussions for years, but the department has had to wait for the funding to move forward with the work. Now, department officials say the funding will be ready for the next construction season, but the plans have changed significantly.

The traffic light at the intersection would be installed in addition to the right-turn lane, and the work would also create a better line of sight for those turning off of Hill Road onto Route 111. The intersection has been the site of serious accidents over the years. The two most recent involved a car turning east toward Biddeford from Hill Road, which was struck by a Jeep traveling west on Route 111 in 2013, while in 2012, a motorcyclist and his passenger were seriously injured on Route 111 when a van pulled out in front of them, which was also turning east toward Biddeford from Hill Road.

That’s why creating a dedicated turning lane and clearing some of the bushes and trees from the side of Hill Road would go a long way in improving this intersection. But we’re not sold on the traffic signal that is now planned for this notoriously difficult and dangerous intersection.

While improvements are clearly necessary, a traffic light could cause more issues than it solves.

Drivers have seen others speed up when a traffic light turns yellow so they don’t get stuck at a red light ”“ and most likely have done it themselves. The intersection in question is most congested during commuter hours ”“ with thousands of people traveling on Route 111 to get to Biddeford, Portland and points beyond. There is plenty of traffic traveling west as well, to Sanford and other interior York County towns.

That is why adding a traffic light may be an added danger ”“ particularly during the evening commute when drivers are tired and just trying to get home as quickly as possible. Not to mention those who are speeding to pick up a child or make it to their kid’s sporting event.

Route 111 is a major highway in the area with faster posted speed limits, which will likely lead to drivers thinking they can sneak through a yellow ”“ or often red ”“ light rather than stop at the signal. It will also be more difficult for drivers to stop since the posted speed limit there is 50 mph.

It’s important that the DOT consider the impacts of installing a traffic light at this intersection. Just because the route meets the threshold for a signal, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice ”“ even if residents and town officials are pushing for it. Widening the roadway to allow for a dedicated turn lane and increasing visibility for motorists using Hill Road should go a long way in improving safety at this intersection. And if the DOT decides it’s not enough, it can always add the signal at a later date.

 

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Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham Rousseau on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]