North Yarmouth Public Works Director Clark Baston, at left, and resident Steve Palmer, a member of the town’s Living Well group, hope traffic-calming measures installed later this year will slow vehicles speeding through Village Center. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

NORTH YARMOUTH — The data culled from a radar speed trailer of traffic heading into town from Yarmouth is eye-opening – and sometimes alarming.

Placed near Fat Andy’s Hardwood at 373 Walnut Hill Road (Route 115) in April, the device – which flashes the speed of passing motorists and warns them to slow down – recorded an average 80% of traffic exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, with maximum speeds consistently in the high 40s, some between 50-67, and one vehicle traveling as fast as 76 mph.

More serious violations tended to be during the day, while speeds in the low 40s were recorded at night, according to information provided in a recent “Reminders from Town Hall” newsletter by Steve Palmer, a member of the Living Well in North Yarmouth group and a former selectman.

Speeding occurred more often during peak travel times among commuters leaving town in the morning and returning in the evening. “Coming home is insane, how fast they go,” Palmer said.

Living Well has been working with Public Works Director Clark Baston, economic development and planning consultant Vanessa Farr, and other town staff on ways to mitigate speeding through town, particularly in the Village Center between two intersections of Routes 115 and 9.

Palmer called that area a “pinch point,” due to its high traffic volume.

“I think it’s an increasing problem,” he said. “We’re just much more aware of it now because we’ve turned our attention to it.”

Fortunately, there have been no crashes in that zone in recent years, Palmer and Baston said.

Meeting a year ago near Stone’s Cafe & Bakery, located between the intersections, Palmer said he and the others “talked about the possibilities of what we could do to improve the safety and comfort level of people using this part of town.”

The radar speed trailer now sits across Stone’s along Route 115, recording traffic moving into town; the data has yet to be examined. It was due this week to be moved across the street to track vehicles heading toward Yarmouth, Baston said July 10 in an interview alongside Palmer.

“I get complaints on speed on every road in town,” Baston noted. When Palmer expressed surprised that Baston receives them, Baston added, “there’s nobody else to complain to. We don’t have the police department here.”

The town’s other speed trailer, which flashes speeds but doesn’t record data, is located on Sligo Road, near the Toddy Brook Golf Course. North Road, with its long straight stretches, is another hot spot, Baston said.

“We’re just trying to identify what we already know, that people are speeding,” he explained.

Narrowing solutions

With no law enforcement but the Cumberland County Sheriff Department and State Police, the town is seeking creative ways to crack down on the issue. Bollards could be installed later this summer or early fall, street lanes re-striped and parking allowed on both sides of the road to narrow its appearance.

“Instead of trying to police it, and leave the road wide so you feel comfortable driving 50 through here,” the narrowing should cause motorists to instinctively slow down, Baston said.

“It makes you, sitting in front of Stone’s, feel safer if you’ve got cars between you and the traveling dump trucks,” he noted, referring to the high number of large vehicles traveling to and from North Yarmouth’s gravel pits.

“What they’re trying to do here is constrict the lanes, so that people are forced to pay more attention to driving through here,” Palmer said.

The project, the timeline of which has yet to be determined as the town seeks funding sources, will be accomplished in conjunction with the Maine Department of Transportation and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“It’s just a test,” Baston said. “If we don’t like it, it’ll probably be years before any money came to do something permanent.”

The town’s contribution to the project could be $2,000, which would come from economic development funds, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said July 10. A Community Development Block Grant from Cumberland County is matching those funds, and the town is exploring other monetary sources.

“We are going to do what we can with funds obtained,” she noted.

Improving safety in the Village Center will be critical as that area grows, considering the development already underway and on the horizon, Baston said.

“There’s just going to be a lot more stuff going on here, so they can’t keep going the speeds they’re traveling,” he added.

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