Two new traffic lights at the intersections of Route 1 and Water Street and Route 1 and Middle Street will go live at 9 a.m. and remain active year-round. Photo courtesy of Larry Hesseltine

WISCASSET — The Maine Department of Transportation was set this morning to activate two new traffic lights that were installed last summer in downtown Wiscasset.

The Route 1 traffic lights at the Water and Middle streets intersections were installed to improve the flow of traffic and increase pedestrian safety, according to MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill.

“The traffic backup in Wiscasset in the summer is notorious,” said Merrill. “These new signals should greatly reduce the backups during the summer months. 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.

The signals are designed to remain green unless someone pushes a pedestrian crossing button or side street traffic on Water Street, Middle Street, or Route 27 triggers the signal sensors.

According to the MDOT’s website, the two new signals feature technology that allows them to adapt to the flow of traffic and communicate with MaineDOT’s Transportation Management Center in Augusta.

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

Ernie Martin, the DOT’s project manager, said the biggest change for drivers is the lights take away the need to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street.

“Pedestrians now need to press the crossing button and wait until the light tells you to walk,” said Martin. “Now that the signals are in place, you don’t need to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks because when crosswalks become signalized, pedestrians have to wait for the walk light.”

Lawrence Hesseltine, Wiscasset’s police chief, told The Times Record reporter in November that the lights will help pedestrians cross Route 1 safely.

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.

The MDOT said in a news release the activation of the new traffic signals “represents one of the final phases of our downtown Wiscasset work.”

“Remaining work involves paving the southern end of Water Street from (Route 1) to the new parking lot,” according to the news release.

The department estimates contracted work will begin in mid-April and the entire downtown Wiscasset project should be finished in mid-June.

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