A pedestrian uses a crosswalk equipped with the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon. File photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — The Maine Department of Transportation, after investigating South Portland’s pedestrian activities and traffic, has released a report with considerations the city can take to increase safety measures.

Short-term, medium-term and long-term items are listed in an action plan that the Maine DOT released in July, said Patrick Adams, active transportation planner, at the Aug. 17 South Portland City Council meeting. The plan is the result of a series of public meetings, forums and analyses the department has undergone since fall of 2019.

The Maine DOT identified 21 communities in the state, including South Portland, that represent 29 percent of Maine’s pedestrian crashes, Adams said. In these communities, over two-thirds of pedestrian crashes took place as well as over one-third of related fatalities.

“I have heard in many different localities that pedestrians were frustrated because they felt like they didn’t have a voice in their communities,” Adams said. “Because of the crashes and fatalities we were seeing, we decided to start this heads-up project with the intent of focusing our energies on those communities across the state of Maine that seemed to have a disproportionate share of pedestrian crashes.”

Short-term solutions identified in the report suggest that South Portland continue to refresh crosswalk paint annually, install double-sided pedestrian signage and continue to take input from the bicycle-pedestrian committee. Medium- and long-term recommendations suggest implementation of various policies or lane reductions on specific streets.

The options in the plan are varied and wide, and the Maine DOT does not expect any municipality to follow every recommended item, said Adams.

“Maine DOT has made a commitment to the 21 focus communities that we’re working with to continue to support the development and improvements of recommendations that are in this report and that does include financial support for those projects,” he said.

Some of the items in the report may appear in future council meetings or budget proposals, said City Manager Scott Morelli.

The report said that Cottage Road from Highland Avenue to North Richland Street, Cash Corner and Westbrook Street under I-295 are areas that forum participants deemed as the highest priorities.

Participants of the forum also said they thought pedestrians wearing dark clothes after dark, cyclists ignoring traffic signals or signals and motorists driving aggressively were the most problematic behaviors from each group.

There has been a slow, evolving prioritization of pedestrian safety over the past few years throughout the state, said Adams.

Councilor Sue Henderson said she appreciated the focus on walkers’ and cyclists’ safety, as there hasn’t been much of a consideration of pedestrians in the past.

The city staff and council will look forward to the continued work based on the action plan, said Mayor Misha Pride.

“It seems you condensed a lot of the info into digestible chunks so I really appreciate that, and I look forward to make decisions based on the data you collected, so thank you very much for the hard work,” Pride said.

Councilor April Caricchio said she would like to see more updates and work on the Cross Town Connector.

“I’m really happy to see the veteran’s bridge crosswalk addressed because I know I’ve been contacted about that one a couple of times and that always puts fear in my heart, so that’s exciting to see that being addressed,” Caricchio said. “The Cash Corner area is being addressed as well and I think that’s wise, especially since we’re changing our two middle schools and centralizing it to one middle school, which is going to bring a lot of traffic across the city, so that’s awesome.”

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