WESTBROOK – The future of the intersection of Route 302 and Hardy and Duck Pond roads was debated this week, as Westbrook officials weigh options for easing safety concerns in the heavily traveled area.

City Councilor Mike Sanphy, whose Ward 5 includes the intersection, has been leading city officials in advocating for a traffic light at the intersection for years. State transportation officials recently announced that a traffic light at the intersection is not an option, but have offered to fund initial studies for implementing a roundabout at the location.

During the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting Monday, Sanphy expressed his disappointment with the decision, and said the majority of neighboring residents to the intersection do not favor the roundabout.

“I don’t think a roundabout is the proper way to deal with the situation,” he said, citing an accident at a Gorham roundabout last week, where a fuel truck rolled and dumped kerosene and diesel. “I’m concerned that a roundabout will provoke more accidents.”

According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, the city asked Maine Department of Transportation officials for the traffic light about a decade ago, with state officials only agreeing to install a “flashing beacon,” which flashes yellow for Route 302 and red for the intersecting streets.

However, according to Bryant’s memo to the committee, “as residential growth in the northern end of the city has progressed and traffic volume has continued to increase along the Route 302 corridor, safety concerns have increased.”

Bryant said the recent concerns, and the push by Sanphy, moved the state to again participate in public meetings and analysis of the intersection, which led to their most recent proposal.

“Based on its extensive review and analysis of this intersection, the [state] has concluded that they would not approve or permit a traffic signal at this location and that the preferred traffic control measure that they would support is a roundabout,” he said. “This option has been an unpopular concept for many of the area residents.”

Bryant said the city is now in a tough situation due to the state’s opinion, and asked to council to discuss next steps.

Councilor John O’Hara agreed with Sanphy, and was skeptical of the reasoning given by the state.

“When someone tells me we can’t put a traffic light there, it’s hogwash,” he said. “We want a traffic light there, we deserve a light there, and under no circumstances should we settle for anything else in this community.”

Mayor Colleen Hilton said that the state’s analysis found that a roundabout is the best option for reducing speed in the intersection, based on the rate of speed on Route 302.

City Engineer Eric Dudley said the state has multiple criteria that an intersection must meet in order to be considered for a traffic light. He said a major consideration is the frequency of left turns from the intersecting streets (Hardy and Duck Pond roads) to the highway or route.

“There’s nowhere near enough left turns coming off the minor streets to the major street to even come close to warrant a light,” he said.

Dudley added that if none of the criteria are met, the safety issue comes into play, in which the state considers the frequency of a particular type of accident that could be solved by installing a signal.

“Unfortunately, in this case, there isn’t a particular accident that occurs,” he said. “With roundabouts, you don’t see the type of accidents that you do with other types of intersections.”

Neighboring Gorham has five roundabouts.

Councilor Victor Chau voiced what seemed as a majority opinion of the council Monday, stating that while a traffic signal is the preferred change at the intersection, “I don’t feel that it is an option for us. They’re not giving us one and we don’t have the power to get one,” he said. “It’s not a card we have on the table right now.”

On Tuesday, Sanphy added that he’s currently trying to have the area designated as a historic district with Greater Portland Landmarks. He said the area was always “a little town in itself” with a post office, general store, cemetery, church and Grange hall.

“I think a roundabout would spoil the whole historic aspect of it,” he said.

Sanphy added that he’d like to have another public meeting with neighbors of the intersection and state transportation officials.

The committee voted unanimously Monday to refer discussion of the intersection to the City Council.

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