Brunswick officials say they are confident that the location of a new fire station — now under construction at the intersection of Pleasant and Webster streets — won’t pose a problem, despite the area’s oft-complained-about traffic congestion.

The Brunswick Town Council approved the new station in February, which is estimated to cost just over $13 million in total and offer a significant upgrade from 102-year-old facility at 21 Town Hall Place.

The location has drawn concern and criticism on social media due to congestion on Pleasant Street, which, in the section between Range Road and Mill Street, saw an annual average daily traffic of between 25,000 and 30,000 vehicles in 2019.

According to Brunswick Town Engineer Ryan Barnes, the primary plan for emergency personnel to navigate the corridor during congested hours is by controlling traffic signals, and by having vehicles leaving the station exit on Webster Street.

“It’s not just going to control the Webster Street light, I think that’s a common misconception,” Barnes said. “This will be designed so that if the fire department is responding to an in town call it will also be triggering the signal at Stanwood Street.”

The new fire station is located at 119 Pleasant Street in Brunswick. Graphic by Melissa Pritchard for The Times Record. 

Having remote access to the light from the station, Barnes said, gives vehicles time to clear the way in advance of the emergency vehicles. Likewise, Barnes said, if emergency vehicles are headed out of town toward the Interstate 295 interchanges, the signal would be triggered at the Church Road intersection.

There are five high-crash locations in the Pleasant Street corridor area, which, according to Maine Department of Transportation Communications Director Paul Merrill, resulted in 83 crashes during 2020. High-crash locations and segments are areas that, in a three-year period, have eight or more crashes and a higher frequency of crashes than the state average for similar locations.

The preventive measures will mostly be needed during peak traffic hours around summertime, Barnes said, and adjustments to the system may be and can be made once it is implemented. A study looking at possible roadwork on the Pleasant Street corridor, which is currently underway, is also expected to help ease traffic in the area.

“We absolutely do hope and are working with DOT now to try to get as many of those recommendations that came out of the study to come to fruition and be implemented,” said Barnes. “Obviously that will help the corridor, which will obviously help the fire station as well.”

Workers at the construction site for the new Brunswick fire station on Pleasant Street. Courtesy of Brunswick Fire Department

According to Brunswick Fire Chief Kenneth Brillant, while several different locations were looked at, the Pleasant Street lot was ultimately chosen by a task force and approved by the council due to a central location offering quick response time and access from Webster Street.

“Is there a concern? Sort of, but it is what we’re trained to do when we are responding to emergencies,” Brillant said. “I would point out that there’s traffic issues all over the country and other departments that dump into worse traffic conditions than — people seem to want to point out — on Pleasant Street.”

Between July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, Brunswick Fire Department responded to 4,209 calls. In the same timeframe between 2020 and 2021, the department responded to 4,200 calls. According to Brillant, roughly 85% of the calls that the department gets are medical as opposed to fire.

Town Councilor Kathy Wilson, who has lived on Pleasant Street most of her life and owns a business on the busy street, said that while she understands the concerns about traffic, and frequently experiences it herself, she thinks the new location will work well.

“I see Wiscasset, all of those ambulances, they all go up here,” Wilson said. “They get through quite well, as long as people respect what they’re supposed to do which is pull over and get out of the way and 99% and 9/10ths of the time they do.”

Other businesses and organizations on Pleasant Street, such as Pat’s Pizza, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and O’Donoghues were also unconcerned.

“I have no concerns about it impacting business,” said Pat’s Pizza Brunswick Manager Jim Burt. “I don’t see any traffic quagmires or anything, you know, the problems with traffic on Pleasant Street far exceed the addition of a fire department.”

Patrick O’Donoghue, owner of O’Donoghue’s Pub, said he did not have a strong opinion about the new station, but did believe it will have an impact on traffic and should be incorporated in any future Pleasant Street modifications.

The town is optimistic that the new station will be open by next summer and, at this point, there is no plan for the future of the current station.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.