April 20, 2019

Council views potential rotary changes

BANGOR — A Portland consultant used a computer simulation Wednesday night to show the Bangor City Council how improvements to the downtown rotary would enhance traffic flow in the area.

Although several options were considered by the consultant and a committee of local officials and business people, the option that probably will be submitted to area and state transportation agencies will not include the addition of two-way traffic to any portion of the Harlow-Central-State streets loop.

Instead, the recommendation will be for an upgraded signal system and a variety of improvements to enhance safety and convenience.

Tom Gorrill and Randy Dunton of DeLuca Hoffman Associates in Portland first displayed the simulation of the flow of traffic around the rotary at noontime on a weekday in 1996.

The second model, allowing for what Gorrill called a conservative estimate of growth in traffic of 2 percent a year, displayed the flow of vehicles projected in the year 2010.

The third model was based on traffic projections with improvements added, such as an up-to-date signal system, and reducing part of Central Street to two lanes to slow traffic.

Gorrill emphasized that not all the benefits of the system would be obvious on the computer model. Pedestrian safety and the convenience of having more parking spaces by adding diagonal parking could not really be seen on the computer program, he said.

The study of Bangor’s downtown traffic was funded by the Bangor Area Comprehensive Traffic Study, the regional board that is the metropolitan planning organization for Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Orono, Veazie and Hampden.

Gorrill said that after the plan is fine-tuned and the committee meets again, the proposal would be submitted to BACTS for ranking and prioritization with other projects being submitted from communities in the area.

Assuming it was approved as a priority project, he said, the proposal would go to the Maine Department of Transportation, which then would submit it to the Legislature for funding.

Gorrill said that he would recommend that the new signal system be submitted separately from the rest of the project because of the likelihood that it would be given priority.

The project could be implemented in 1998, if approved, although Gorrill said that some aspects of the traffic pattern could be implemented earlier on a trial basis with temporary paint and materials.

Last summer DeLuca Hoffman conducted a license-plate study around the rotary to see how much of the traffic would benefit by changing one or more legs of the rotary to two-way traffic. The results were inconclusive, he said, being right around 25 percent.

He said that the consensus of the committee was that primary importance should be placed on vehicles that were using the downtown area, as opposed to those that only wanted to pass through it. Major concerns of the committee, he said, included the speed of traffic, pedestrian safety and parking.

The computer did a good job of simulating the traffic patterns Gorrill was discussing, but it left no doubt that the insights of people were critical to the process. Some of those watching the program on Wednesday pointed out that there was no reason for traffic going up State Street to be stopped while traffic coming down the hill turned right onto Harlow. The consultants agreed and said that the plan would be modified to allow that.

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