Crosswalks and sidewalks in school zones in Cumberland, like this one on the Greely High School campus, could soon see some safety improvements. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

Cumberland is considering measures to increase public safety that include new pedestrian-crossing signs and flashing signs warning motorists when they are speeding through school zones.

Proposed improvements have been in the works since last summer, according to Town Manager Bill Shane. But a November accident at Main Street and Farwell Avenue, where an 11-year-old bicyclist received minor injuries, was the catalyst for a December council meeting with the Maine Department of Transportation and the police department.

The town wants to set up a pedestrian crossing sign on the street.

“Because it’s in the middle of the road, it helps slow vehicles down,” MDOT Bike and Pedestrian Engineer Patrick Adams said at the council meeting.

MDOT offers a grant program that would cover the cost of flashing signs in school zones. The town would be responsible for the estimated cost of $4,000 to $8,000 to install the signs, along with maintenance. It is unclear how many signs Cumberland would need.

The signs would flash an hour before the beginning of the school day and an hour after the end and include a speed indicator.

The proposed safety improvements would be added to a plan for new crosswalks and crosswalk landing areas along Main Street and Blanchard and Tuttle roads in the school zone, Shane said. The recommendations are included in the town’s five-year capital improvement plan, which is an outline of infrastructure projects to be completed between 2021 and 2025.

Shane estimates that the project total, including new signage and sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, will cost about $400,000, with MDOT covering half of the cost through grants.

“For us, the timing is important. The immediate plan is, how do we improve safety, especially around the school zone,” Shane said at the Dec. 15 meeting. “I don’t think we’re talking millions of dollars; we’re talking reasonable amounts of dollars, especially for safety signage and sidewalk improvements that were already in our capital plan. There will be a lot happening in a short period of time.”

A meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, will include an information session and a review of the plan the town tentatively will put out for bid by March.

In 2019, which is the most recent data available, the average daily traffic for Main Street south of Farwell Avenue was 5,909 vehicles, according to the MDOT. There have been no other pedestrian or bike accidents in the past year on Tuttle Road or Main Street. There was one non-fatal accident involving an adult bicyclist on Main Street in 2019, Rumsey said.

In 2021, there were 20 pedestrian fatalities in the state and two bicyclist fatalities, according to the Bureau for Highway Safety. Those numbers are still considered preliminary and are subject to change. There were 168 non-fatal bicycle crashes in 2021 throughout the state and 209 pedestrian crashes, according to Adams. Adams said these numbers are average when compared to statistics between 2003 and 2021.

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