OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A number of Old Orchard Beach residents told the Town Council the were in favor of plans to upgrade water, sewer and storm water infrastructure on several streets on Jan. 19 . However, several said they oppose limiting traffic to one-way on the two affected roads during a public hearing on that issue that night.

The Town Council plans to replace water, sewer and storm water infrastructure on Fern and West Old Orchard avenues. Infrastructure there is more than 100 years old and there have been problems there and in other areas of town, Town Manager Larry Mead said on Jan. 19.

As a result, the town proposes making Fern Avenue and West Old Orchard Avenue one-way.

“The reason these two streets were selected was because the problem with the sewer system was more acute on these two streets than the other nearby streets,” he said.

The proposed upgrades would be paid for through $1 million in federal funds from a Community Development Block Grant; the town must match that amount.

“We really wanted to do everything between Union and Heath Street, essentially Union and Atlantic and First and Washington, but we just don’t have enough money for that right now. So we’re starting here and the work will include in addition to the underground infrastructure, water as well as sewer and storm water, it will include replacement of the sidewalk on each of the streets … on one side of each street.” In addition, he said, curbing on those roads will be replaced as the existing curbing is worn down and in poor condition.

One way traffic, going up the hill on Fern Avenue and down the hill on West Old Orchard Avenue is necessary, Mead said, because with a larger sidewalk — 5 1/2 feet as required when using federal funds versus the current 4-feet, eight feet for parking on one side of the street and improved curbing, only 16 feet would remain for a travel lane on both streets.

“Sixteen feet is just not safe dimensions to be able to put two-way travel on that amount of distance,” he said.

Several residents said they favor the project but had concerns.

Robin Dayton who lives on Fern Avenue said she objected to making the road one way.

“I’m right at the top of Fern,” she said. “I feel I’m one of the ones most impacted by the one way. When I come off of Washington my house is right there at the corner and if you make this a one-way going up the hill I literally have to go all the way around the block to get to my house. … I’m not going to do that.

“I have been one of the people most impacted by the sewer problem so I do understand how important this project is and I certainly support it I just don’t support the one way on the street,” Dayton said.

She also said she thought sidewalks were more needed on Washington Avenue where people walk to catch the bus than Fern Avenue or West Old Orchard Avenue.

Charles Cardoza, who lives on West Old Orchard, requested that the council “take a good look at the parking situation before you make a decision.” He said the proposed changes would decrease on-street parking because people would only be able to park on one side of his road rather than on both sides as they currently do.

“Legally, there is no parking on both sides of the street,” Mead said. Currently, he said, some drivers park half on their lawn and half on the street. He said the changes will reduce that but won’t totally eliminate people’s ability to continue that form of parking. There will be curb cuts in front of each parcel, he said, so some people will be able to pull into the curb cut and park there and on their lawn.

Some residents also brought up concerns that during winter plowing, the snow plow would blow snow on the sidewalks if the streets become one way and homeowners would be required to shovel that snow.

Mead said he hopes $2 million will be enough to complete the proposed work plan, but “given the bidding climate … it’s not clear to me that we’ll have enough funds.”

The “first step is to put the project out to bid in February and find out what the numbers are and how much work can be done,” he said in a Jan. 25 email.

No action is scheduled by the council at this time, Mead said. The Town may wait until work is substantially completed before bringing the issue back to the council for it to change the ordinance to make Fern Avenue and West Old Orchard Avenue one way. He said the implementation vote may not take place until next year.

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