A taxi pulls out from the intersection of River Road and Pleasant Street. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Brunswick officials voted unanimously Monday to endorse a roughly $4.5 million intersection improvement project for Pleasant Street, a roughly two-mile segment of Route 1 linking Interstate 295 and downtown Brunswick that frequently experiences crashes and high traffic volumes.

Of the cost, approximately 80%, or $3.6 million, would be paid for by state and federal funds. The remaining 20%, or $900,000, would be sourced from town funds.

The intersection improvements include a second right turn lane off Mill Street, two left turn lanes onto Mill Street, additional turn lanes — both left and right — at the River Road intersection and two left turn lanes at the intersection of Church Road. The project would also add additional crosswalks at the intersections and a traffic light at Mill Street.

The proposed project aims to improve traffic flow by adding turn lanes and crosswalks to a number of roadways off of Pleasant Street. 

According to Brunswick Town Engineer Ryan Barnes, it became obvious through a study of the corridor that the intersections of Church Road, River Road and Mill Street do not have adequate turning lanes to prevent vehicles from blocking traffic behind them

“By allowing them to get out of the way so that the through movement can continue, it greatly increases the safety and mobility of the corridor,” said Barnes.

There are five high-crash locations on Pleasant Street that fall within scope of the town’s project, 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.

In 2019, the annual average daily traffic for the Pleasant Street area was between 25,000 and 30,000 vehicles.

A new fire station is also under construction on Pleasant Street. According to a September report by The Times Record, the town is optimistic that the new station will be open by next summer.

By endorsing the project, the improvements will go into the design stage, and the town will be put in the queue for state and federal funding.

If the town decides later not to proceed “without good cause” Brunswick could be responsible for 100% of the preliminary engineering and related costs, which according to Barnes, totals around $600,000.

“I don’t think anybody in this room or in the town of Brunswick is surprised that the town has experienced issues with traffic on Pleasant Street for decades now,” Town Manager John Eldridge said at Monday’s meeting.

Mister Bagel co-owner Beth Soma said that, while she was not yet familiar with Monday’s council vote, she is concerned that construction could impede customer access and be a “death sentence” for her business.

Soma has owned the bagel shop, located at the intersection of Church Road and Pleasant Street, for two and a half years.

“They have hinted that they are going to widen this road,” Soma said. “If they do, they’re going to hurt a lot of small business that are already struggling.”

Ben Martens, the executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, said that the organization is thrilled to see Brunswick addressing traffic flow on Pleasant Street. Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association is located near the intersection of Stanwood, Mill and Pleasant Streets.

“As an organization that receives frequent visitors, we would love to see the town address some of the safety issues related to turning in and out of the side roads off of Pleasant Street and hope that the focus next turns to building better connections around these congested areas as identified in the commissioned report,” Martens said.

Brunswick Town Councilor, Pleasant Street resident and business owner Kathy Wilson, demonstrated by her vote, said that she is supportive of the project.

Wilson has lived on Pleasant Street most of her life, and said that, from her perspective, the corridor has gradually become busier over the decades and the additional turning lanes are needed.

Brunswick is continuing to look at the possibility of connector roads off Pleasant Street. For the time being, a roundabout at the beginning of the I-295 access ramp is not a priority due to cost.

A study for a potential two-way Pleasant Street between Mill Street and Maine Street is ongoing, and according to Eldridge, is expected to be completed later this year or early 2022.

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