Residents gathered at the South Portland High School Wednesday to discuss dangerous traffic areas in the city. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND ⁠— Traffic accidents are more likely to occur in South Portland than in other parts of the state, transportation officials say, and Cash Corner is one of the most troublesome areas for pedestrians, residents told the Maine Department of Transportation at an Oct. 30 meeting at the high school.

Data from the Maine Department of Transportation for 2016-17 also suggests pedestrian fatalities statewide are on the rise and are almost five times higher than the state’s bicyclist fatality rate.

Over 40 residents met to discuss pedestrian traffic issues in the city in advance of a safety report to be submitted by the coalition and MDOT to the city in early 2020. The event was organized by MDOT and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a state advocacy group for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Residents sift through brochures and pamphlets at the Maine DOT and Bicycle Safety Coalition traffic event. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

Cash Corner, along with Western Avenue and Broadway, was cited due to lack of crosswalks and sidewalks, poor lighting, and high traffic volume that all lead to an increase in accidents and difficulties crossing the street.

Patrick Adams, who works at MDOT, said the “Heads Up” initiative, which aims to identify dangerous areas in the city, came to fruition about a year ago.

The department hopes to raise awareness with help from members of the community; Adams said the recent forum and one hosted earlier this month were held to hear resident concerns in conjunction with collected data. A third and final forum is slated for Nov. 21.

According to Assistant Director at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine Jim Tassé, the forums are being followed by a site plan review that the Bicycle Coalition of Maine will lead with engineering staff and the Department of Public Works, where they will talk about strategies to mitigate problems in identified areas.

“On Nov. 21 we’ll have a forum that focuses on pedestrian problem behavior, whereas tonight is about the problems with the way roads are built and maintained,” he said.

Resident Annika Schmidt, who attended the event Wednesday, also attends weekly “Calm the Traffic” meetings where residents brainstorm short-term solutions for traffic issues that will need longer-term results in the future. 

While she now lives on Evans Street and often sees people speeding by, she used to live in New York and felt safer biking there than she does now, mostly because the routes she has to ride rarely have enough room for both a vehicle and bicyclist.

“I feel concerned about how aggressive people drive in my community,” she said. “I see people walking on the shoulder of the road because there are no sidewalks, and I’ve watched pedestrians wait for over 10 minutes to safety cross because no one stops for them. I want to make my community more livable and friendly.”

According to South Portland Police Officer Tom Simons, problems persist throughout the city. From residential neighborhoods to dead-end streets, to divided highways where, he said, there are fewer crashes but they are often far more serious.

“We get a lot of calls for speeding, a lot of calls for crosswalk pedestrian safety, and also a fair amount of calls about people just not getting along in heavy traffic,” he said at the meeting. “There’s no fixed time when we’re more likely to get calls about it, but this is definitely going to help and give people a chance to be heard.”

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