April 06, 2020

Panel OKs steps for EMMC walker safety

BANGOR – A City Council subcommittee approved steps Tuesday night to improve pedestrian safety on the stretch of State Street that runs between Eastern Maine Medical Center and Wing Park, where hundreds of the hospital’s employees park.

While no pedestrians have been struck there in recent years, city officials noted that there have been near hits. They thought the possibility of injuries or fatalities warranted immediate action.

Specifically, the councilors directed staff to install some “attention getters,” namely red lights containing white strobe lights at the pedestrian crossing, and a lighted “turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians” sign for vehicular traffic leaving Wing Park.

If those measures fail to help, the issue could be revisited in six months.

Resident Judith Brown, a nurse at EMMC and president of the hospital’s 800-member nurses union, brought the matter to the forefront.

“I decided to write to the City Council to improve the safety issues that the nurses have brought forward to me,” Brown said during a meeting of the council’s transportation and infrastructure committee, headed by Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick.

In a Sept. 1 memo, Brown cited several safety issues in need of attention, among them:

. That the traffic signals in front of EMMC were timed to go on blinking yellow mode from midnight to 6 a.m., posing a problem for those who must report to work before that. The lights since have been reset to go on flash from midnight to 4 a.m., to coincide with shift changes. . The pedestrian crossing sits at the top of a hill and is not visible by motorists coming in from Veazie and Orono until they are almost upon it.

“Countless times we have seen drivers go through the red light just as the walk light is engaged,” Brown noted in her memo. “I am not sure if these people were going too fast to stop or if they were trying to beat the light. I have personally witnessed large 18-wheeler trucks go through this intersection just as people are starting to cross the street. It is really only a matter of time before someone is crushed while trying to cross.”

Other steps the city is taking to improve pedestrian safety near EMMC include increasing the police presence there.

During Tuesday’s meeting, committee members asked whether Sgt. Thomas Reagan, a teacher with the law enforcement program at Husson College, could arrange to have some of the program’s interns study the area.

“We’ve used them up there in the past, running radar near Cascade Park,” Reagan said after the meeting.

Reagan oversees the department’s Special Enforcement Team, a three-member spotlight group that tackles issues in the community, including traffic enforcement in problem spots throughout Bangor. The area at issue is on the team’s list of areas in need of periodic targeted attention.

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