BIW employees rush out the shipyard at 3:30 p.m. to be shuttled by bus to offsite parking. (Kathleen Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — A new report suggests some radical ideas in Bath for solving traffic woes during the afternoon shift change at one of Maine’s largest employers. The final report of the South End Transportation Study suggests making a portion of Washington Street that runs past Bath Iron Works one-way only for part of the afternoon.

The report, released Wednesday, was aimed at easing the strain of limited amount of parking for shipyard employees and residents in the South End, as well as improving traffic flow during shift change, when employees depart the south end of the city in a mass exodus.

The most noteworthy proposal cited in the report is to turn a section of Washington Street between Leeman Highway and Centre Street one-way from 3:30-4 p.m. Should this be enacted, traffic entering from about a dozen streets would be prohibited from turning right onto Washington Street. That change would divert an estimated 426 vehicles down to Washington in that half-hour, reducing stress on High Street and the Route 1 on- and off-ramps.

The final cost of such a change is unknown, but according to the final transportation report, it could cost $500,000 or more. Test monitoring alone has a price tag of $20,000.

At the same time as BIW’s 3:30 p.m. shift change, Bath school buses are dropping children off after school ends at 3 p.m. Suzanne Steen, co-owner of Bath Bus Service, the company that operates the school buses for all Bath schools, said the school bus drivers avoid Washington Street in the afternoon because they know Bath floods with traffic from BIW after 3:30 p.m.

“If they get caught on Washington Street after 3:30 p.m., they’ll sit there in traffic for a good 15 minutes,” said Steen. “We’ve been doing this for long enough to know to get the kids dropped off in that area before BIW lets out.”

Steen said she doesn’t think making Washington Street a one-way street from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. is the solution to Bath’s traffic problem, and changing the traffic pattern for a short time each day would create unnecessary confusion.

According to the report, BIW uses 1,604 parking spaces spread across 16 parking lots. This includes three satellite lots — the Taste of Maine parking lot in Woolwich, the MaineDOT Park and Ride lot on State Road in Bath off Route 1 and the Maine Gravel parking lot in West Bath.

The report states “a significant number” of BIW employees have shown interest in Go Maine, a Portland-based rideshare service, and recommended BIW partner with the service. Go Maine is a free online service that matches people with similar commutes so they can carpool. As Grover said, “It’s like match.com for carpoolers.”

Of the nearly 6,000 BIW employees, 45 use Go Maine, according to Go Maine Coordinator Rebecca Grover. While Grover doesn’t know how long the BIW employees have been using the service, she said by carpooling those 45 employees alone have saved approximately 700 gallons of gas, $9,000, and reduced carbon emissions by 7 tons.

According to BIW Spokesman David Hench, BIW offers incentives that encourage carpooling and using BIW’s satellite parking lots, then taking a shuttle to the shipyard.

“There isn’t enough parking for everyone to have free parking near the shipyard,” said Hench. “Right now, employees who carpool are given priority parking and people can park for free in satellite parking lots.”

Dachmon Ruge, a BIW employee, said he chose to live in an apartment within walking distance of BIW and walks to work every day, no matter the weather, to avoid the traffic. Ruge said he’d rather walk than deal with the headache that comes with sitting in traffic and finding a place to park that he might have to pay for.

In prior report meetings, citizens called for the construction of a parking garage for BIW employees near the shipyard, but the final report stated a parking garage is, “not recommended given the increased parking supply will likely intensify traffic impacts on Washington Street; long delays departing the garage are likely which may lead to lack of use; and high construction/maintenance cost.”

The report was compiled by the city, the Maine Department of Transportation and BIW.

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