Jennifer Morris, right, speaks with Allan Leo, Linda Crawford and Mary Ann Miro at a meeting of South Portland residents at the Police Department on July 1 to discuss speeding problems. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — Concerned residents met July 1 to brainstorm ideas for slowing city traffic, discussing everything from sending out surveys to arming citizens with speed detectors.

“Traffic violations are a community problem that require a community solution,” Parrot Street resident and group leader Jennifer Morris said. Morris started the group in late April after becoming upset by how fast people drove past her home. 

Eight people gathered with Morris and Officer Rocco Navarro, a traffic specialist, at the Police Department on Anthoine Street on Monday, offering short-term solutions for traffic issues that will need longer-term solutions in the future. 

South Portland residents made signs to remind drivers about traffic violations and plan to post them throughout the city. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

Residents first gathered May 13 at a “Calm the Traffic” event intended to spread awareness about speeding and its impact on the community. Navarro said the effort seems to be working, because he hasn’t been able to catch anyone speeding on Parrot Street or Providence Avenue after monitoring the area more closely. 

Short-term suggestions to slow drivers included temporary traffic signals and speed bumps, while long-term ideas included traffic-calming planters – large obstacles placed on the side of the road to narrow the streets and force people to slow down. 

Problem areas cited at the meeting included Pleasantdale, Highland Avenue, Ocean Street, Breakwater Lane, and Sawyer Street. 

“I work over the other end of the city, and traffic is always backed up on Highland Avenue,” resident Linda Crawford at the meeting. “It can get so backed up … I understand why people take those side streets. We’re all guilty of following the speed flow, too. We need to fix this.” 

To know what solutions are needed in specific areas, Morris said, group members will go door to door in their neighborhoods for donations to help pay for remedial measures to speed up the process. They also want their neighbors’ thoughts on speeding in the area, and will solicit volunteers. 

Members will also ask neighbors’ permission to place homemade signs on their lawns to spread awarenessThe signs, made by Morris, highlight speeding, texting and driving, and failure to stop at red lights and stop signs. 

South Portland Residents met July 1 to talk about speeding issues in the city with Officer Rocco Navarro, right. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

“You can’t wait for the police to make these changes and you can’t put a cop on every street corner,” Morris said. “By breaking up into smaller groups, we can more easily tackle the different problems each area experiences.” 

Morris said after getting residents’ input, the goal is to come up with a plan to mitigate the issue and present those ideas to the City Council.   

Navarro said while residents can’t enforce the law, giving them radars detectors is a great way to collect data that will be sent back to the Police Department for his consideration, and can be helpful in tackling areas with high speeding rates. 

Navarro proposed the idea earlier this year to Police Chief Edwards Googins, who approved it. Once the initiative is underway, the department will provide the detectors and residents will be trained by officers. When that will happen, however, is still undecided.

The plan will be to have three people stationed at city schools, with one person using the radar gun and the other two people collecting license plate numbers. The department is looking for 10 residents who would like to volunteer. 

Navarro said that the Police Department put out two recent requests to the City Council for raised speed tables on Sawyer Street and Evans Street, but has yet to hear back on the requests. 

Morris said surveys were mailed to residents in June, but only a few responses were received.  The group may consider more surveys in the future, but for now, Morris is making face-to-face communication with residents a priority. 

Currently, she has more than 40 people on an email list to receive notifications about future events. While she said she is grateful to have had eight residents attend the meeting, he hopes people will come forward and join future efforts. 

The next meeting is scheduled for July 23 at the Police Department, where residents will discuss their activities during the three-week break between meetings and discuss ways to move forward with solutions. 

“We need to get younger people with children in school on board, because they have a vested interest in the community,” Morris said. “We want to show them it’s not just the crabby old lady on the corner. And coming together will get neighbors talking to neighbors, too.” 


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