Two new traffic lights at the intersections of Route 1 and Water Street and Route 1 and Middle Street are being tested today, Feb. 26 and Friday, Feb. 28. 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day. The traffic lights will go live the first week in April and remain active year-round. Photo courtesy of Larry Hesseltine

WISCASSET — The Maine Department of Transportation is testing two new traffic lights in congested downtown Wiscasset after they were installed last summer.

The two Route 1 traffic lights at the Water and Middle streets intersections are being tested today, Feb. 26 and Friday, Feb. 28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

The traffic lights were installed to improve the flow of traffic and increase pedestrian safety in downtown Wiscasset, according to MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill.

“These new signals should greatly reduce the backups during the summer months,” said Merrill. “We think it will be a big improvement and make the entire area safer.”

According to MDOT, downtown Wiscasset saw an average of 19,530 vehicles per day in 2017.

Merrill said the lights must be tested to ensure they’re communicating properly with the MDOT’s Traffic Management Center in Augusta.

Merrill said he estimates both lights combined cost about $250,000.

The signals are expected to go live the first week in April and remain active year-round.

Lawrence Hesseltine, Wiscasset’s police chief, said the new traffic lights will be an adjustment for everyone, but it will help pedestrians cross Route 1 safely.

“I’ll create an enforcement issue for us to make sure people don’t jaywalk,” said Hesseltine. “If someone’s crossing when they’re not supposed to, it disrupts the flow of traffic.”

Traffic in Wiscasset’s historic downtown, especially in the summer, has been a point of contention between the town and MDOT in recent years.

In 2017 Wiscasset sued MDOT in an attempt to block a $5 million project aimed at improving the flow of traffic through downtown. The project would widen the streets, eliminating all downtown parking for the nearly 20 small storefronts lining Route 1.

In April 2018 Wiscasset residents voted overwhelmingly to drop the lawsuit and allow the department to move forward with its plans.

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