WINDHAM – As part of its efforts to improve a 5.9-mile stretch of River Road, the Maine Department of Transportation is converting a dangerous intersection at Windham Center Road into a roundabout.

The four-way intersection of Windham Center Road and River Road, governed by one flashing light, has been the site of several serious car accidents, according to Town Manager Tony Plante. That’s why the state is managing an effort to turn the intersection into a 140-foot diameter roundabout with 5-foot sidewalks on the perimeter as well as crosswalks. The single-lane road in the roundabout will be 16 feet wide, according to Maine Department of Transportation project manager, Ernie Martin.

According to the department’s project resident, Beecher Whitcomb, 1,200 tons of hot mix asphalt will be laid on the new roundabout and the surrounding roads from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

Work on the new roundabout began four weeks ago, Whitcomb said. It is not clear whether the roundabout will be finished before the winter season puts an end to construction.

“That’s going to depend on the weather,” he said. “They’ll work as long as they can until the ground gets too frozen.”

The new roundabout is the most recent component of a substantial road-widening project that extends from Route 202 in South Windham to Page Road in North Windham. According to Whitcomb, the construction project commenced in June and is set to conclude by December 2015. So far, the department has focused on clearing trees and brush, and installing new utility poles that are set farther back from the road, in order to enable the construction of new, 5-foot shoulders.

The prime contractor on the project is R.J. Grondin & Sons of Gorham, Whitcomb said. To date, the Gorham contractor has focused on constructing catch basins and driveway culverts.

Whitcomb expects that the only remaining work on the roundabout left for next year will be the surface pavement. The entire 5.9-mile stretch of River Road will be paved next year, as well, Whitcomb said.

“Next year will consist mostly of boxing the shoulders, excavating the shoulders, putting in new gravel and widening, and paving everything,” he said.

Whitcomb expects the roundabout project to likely wrap up by the end of November. The utility pole installations should conclude by February, he said.

According to Plante, the construction is proceeding relatively smoothly to date.

“For the most part, people who are regular users of River Road know the construction’s there or choose to use it or not use it,” Plante said. “I haven’t heard any major problems keeping traffic moving through there. Yes, there are delays. For the most part I think people are dealing with it pretty well.”

Plante said that the roundabout is the best way to reduce accidents at the intersection of River Road and Windham Center Road.

“This particular intersection is notorious for bad accidents,” Plante said. “I know there are people who are not big fans of roundabouts, and I get it, but when you actually look at the data with respect to the number and severity of accidents and the types of accidents, roundabouts are safer. They’re not the answer to everything.”

“This is a way to have some sort of traffic-calming, so to speak,” Martin added.

The new roundabout on River Road will have a single lane and sidewalks.  


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