The intersection of William Clarke Drive, Main Street, New Gorham Road and Conant Street, pictured above, will be repaved and widened with a hopeful finish date of November 2022. The intersection, in the dead center of the sketch, often sees long traffic lines. Courtesy photo / Maine Department of Transportation

A major intersection just outside of downtown Westbrook is about to receive some much-needed improvements with the hope of easing traffic congestion.

The city is placing out to bid work for the intersection of William Clarke Drive, Main Street, New Gorham Road and Conant Street, with an eye toward completion in November 2022.

The City Council on Dec. 20 granted the $3.2 million project preliminary approval.

The intersection, on the west side of the city toward the Gorham line, is suffering from serious congestion, according to the MDOT officials. They are also concerned about the number of vehicular crashes, especially as the level of traffic is predicted to increase.

According to MDOT data, there have been 24 crashes at the intersection since 2018. From 2016-2018, there were 29.

MDOT data shows that, on average, nearly 20,000 vehicles traverse the William Clarke Drive portion of the intersection daily, with more than 15,000 on the Main Street portion.

The DOT expects that by 2041, both traffic counts will increase by about 4,000 cars each.

“Traffic gets pretty long from the intersection with Saco Street, almost as far down as the intersection of Spring Street,” Mayor Michael T. Foley said in a Tuesday phone interview. “There is only one lane that goes straight. Sometimes that creates congestion to turn into the CVS lot, and that creates congestion at Saco Street, which creates issues further down.”

The project will mirror similar improvements made to William Clarke Drive itself in 2010.

“This restriction creates a tighter intersection, shortening pedestrian crossing times and providing better definition to the overall intersection,” MDOT senior project manager Ernest Martin wrote in an email to the American Journal on Tuesday.

A major factor is the number of vehicles turning at the intersection. Without a turn lane, traffic backs up, creating congestion that impacts other parts of downtown, according to Foley.

Police Chief Sean Lally agreed, but said his department doesn’t consider the intersection a problem area in terms of calls for police service.

“It is more of a hassle for the commuting public,” Lally wrote in an email Tuesday. “Because the lanes bottleneck at William Clarke Drive and Saco Street, it seriously backs up westbound traffic. This causes issues at Mechanic Street with cars stopping in the intersection, which blocks traffic on Mechanic Street.”

Planned improvements include repaving the 1,637-foot area as well as widening the road to allow additional turn lanes. The project also calls for improved sidewalks, crosswalks and lights.

The project’s total cost is expected to be $3,230,096, with money from Rock Row tax revenue covering about $885,500, leaving $138,794, or 4.3% of the entire project to be covered with city funds. Other project funds come from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System.

“This paired with hopeful changes on the turnpike will really help our traffic problem with residents and commuters going west,” Foley said.

The proposed turnpike plan is separate from this project but would also majorly benefit commuters moving west towards Gorham.

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