The left turn prohibition from North Street onto Garfield Street and from Garfield onto North Street in Saco could become permanent sometime in the new year. Saco Police said there have been no crashes since the prohibition was introduced in mid-October. Andrew Dickinson City of Saco Photo

SACO — A temporary  ban on left hand turns at the intersection of Garfield and North streets may become permanent.

From Jan. 1 to mid-October, there were 24 motor vehicle crashes at that intersection, resulting in 14 injuries.

The combination made the intersection considered a high crash location.

From Oct. 15 when temporary traffic bollards were placed at the two intersections, preventing left turns from North Street (Route 112) onto Garfield Street, and from Garfield Street onto North, Street, no accidents were reported, city officials say.

When the city’s Traffic Safety Study Committee hosts its next meeting, as yet unscheduled but likely sometime in January, making the prohibition permanent will be discussed, said Saco Deputy Police Chief Corey Huntress.

The left turn from North Street to Garfield had been a popular one for motorists trying to get to Route 5.

There were initial complaints when the prohibition was introduced, Huntress said, when motorists were just becoming used to the change, and the police department placed officers in the area to address those issues. Now, he said, incidents like people making U-turns in residents’ driveways and the like seem to have been curbed.

Twenty-five percent fewer people are passing through the Garfield Street-North Street intersection than before the prohibition, Huntress said.

“We are not sure where they are going but they are not using the areas we have collected the data from, which would be Louden Road, Shadagee Road, Tasker Street and Franklin Street,” he said.

There was a slight increase in traffic on Louden Road, Huntress said, but no reported crashes and there have been no complaints.

The left turn prohibition was among several made in the Saco Route 112/Exit 36 Area Transportation Study, conducted through a partnership between the city, the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation.

Saco Communications Director Emily Roy said when the prohibition was originally instituted, the city got a lot of response, but that has subsided a bit.

Garfield Street is now seeing about the same amount of traffic as Tasker Street and other residential streets, she said.

“The data shows people are finding alternative routes,” said Huntress.

If the prohibition is made permanent, raised traffic islands sporting traffic bollards will be installed, both on Garfield Street and North Street. The study estimates the cost to install those at $90,000.

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