The Maine Department of Transportation is reviewing a proposed project at 15 Ocean Park Road in Old Orchard Beach, which is a 5.39 acre parcel near the Smithwheel Road intersection. Formerly the home of Colonial Motor Court, the parcel currently contains the brick-sided, single-family home shown here. The owner is proposing a convenience store with gas pumps and a 190 self-storage units.   Tammy Wells Photo

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A proposed project to transform a former motor court property at 15 Ocean Park Road into a convenience store with gas pumps and more than 190 self-storage units is in the planning stages.

Traffic safety and mobility are part of the discussion — as they are with any project that generates more than 100 peak hour trips a day, say Maine Department of Transportation officials.

Old Orchard Beach Town Planner Jeffrey Hinderliter said no formal application has as yet  been received for the proposed project at 15 Ocean Park Road, the location of what was once the Colonial Motor Court.

A scoping meeting a week ago held by the Maine Department of Transportation examined how the project might impact the roadway.

The proposed project includes a 2,100-square-foot convenience store, six fuel pumps, for a total of 12 fueling positions, and 192 self-storage units in six, 30-foot by 160-foot buildings.

There was discussion about requiring  left lanes to help deal with turning traffic. Several scenarios were discussed, however proposed ideas showed that finding the best way to configure the space may be challenging as the roadway right-of-way  is 50 feet in that area, less than on some other parts of Ocean Park Road. Another factor  DOT officials are expected to consider as they further examine the options will be finding a configuration that allows those who live across the street to be safely able to exit their driveways.

Ocean Park Road is a major thoroughfare into Old Orchard Beach, and Interstate 195 ends a short distance away.The proposed project is located near Old Orchard Beach Campground. A new Dunkin Donuts shop is nearby, across the street, as is the busy Smithwheel Road intersection, along with a number of side streets.  The area contains a mix of commercial and residential properties.

Maine Department of Transportation Region 1 Traffic Engineer Randy Illian said based on existing information,  the proposed development is expected to generate 170 morning one-way trips and 182 afternoon trips during a typical peak hour.

Those existing traffic counts however did not take into account the summer traffic, and the applicant has agreed to conduct studies that do. Traffic counts will be taken in two hour spans on a weekday morning and afternoon during the summer, and for a longer period on a summer Saturday.

The project is proposed by Craig Millett of Colonial Motor Court LLC, who attended the session with his traffic consultant, Bill Bray. The company has a Cape Coral, Florida, address, according to town records. While the cottages were removed from the property some years ago, a single-family dwelling remains. The 5.39 acre property is assessed at $635,400, town records show.

Several options for a left lane were discussed, including repurposing one of the westbound lanes to do so. Another possibility included making a left turn only into the project, but still accommodating two through lanes.

Some noted that on some summer days, travel trailers queue up on the roadway to get to the campground, and predicted problems will ensue if lanes are narrowed.

Rep. Lori Gramlich said Ocean Park Road is one of the few ways in and out of town.

“Every one of these models will have to be looked at,” said Illian. “We’ll need to show they work and not cause safety issues.”

Illian also noted that the developer would pay for any traffic lane changes.

Gramlich also asked about a traffic signal. Illian said that option was discussed in 2015, but didn’t meet the criteria at the time.

DOT officials said there are two “high crash” locations in the general area, which means there were more than eight accidents within a three-year period. There were about 20 crashes at the partial roundabout commonly referred to as Halfway, and 13 at Ocean Park Road and Smithwheel Road.

The proposed project has some people, like resident Guy Fontaine, concerned.

Fontaine lives close by and said the project will result in a large traffic impact in an already busy area.

He spoke to potential run off from fuel spillage, the traffic impact and suggested that the property would be better suited as an affordable housing project with trees and green space. He said the money generated from the project would be spent locally.

“This is the time for the people in Halfway and OOB to say enough is enough and it is time for the town manager and council to push the stop button and look to the future,” said Fontaine in an email.  “Allowing the now recognized ‘high crash area’ to get even worse makes no sense and will create a nightmare that will be unfixable.”

The town had a chance to remedy the issued in 2009 but didn’t, Fontaine said.

Sen. Justin Chenette also attended the meeting, and emailed his thoughts following the session. He referred to the opportunity of a decade ago.

“This proposed project will add stress on an already stressed roadway,” said Chenette. “We can’t talk about this project without discussing the entire stretch, between the speed of folks coming off the connector, inability to get in and out of Smithwheel, to the dangerous intersection in front of 7-eleven. The town should’ve approved a permanent fix with a roundabout when it had the chance 10 years ago when DOT was ready to act. Now we need to get back on the DOT priority list for state level support. That advocacy must come from town officials. The actions that have been taken since then have either made the situation worse or didn’t help with safe traffic flow.”

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