Report offers suggestions for improving pedestrian safety in Belfast

By Ben Holbrook | Apr 02, 2014

Belfast — A final report has been released following a walkability audit that was conducted in early March focusing on the Route 3 and Main Street corridor from the Reny's plaza to the downtown.

A group of about 35 people attended the March 10 workshop when the audit was conducted for a two-hour, 1.2-mile walk. The report first addresses the existing conditions along the Route 3 and Main Street corridor.

The downtown is highly walkable, the report notes, due to increased attention to walkability, bikeability and amenities such as tree cover, pedestrian signals, crosswalks and benches.

Along the Route 3 corridor, the report states the road ranges in widths, pedestrian accommodations, vehicle accommodations, pavement striping and on-street parking spaces with no uniform treatment in any one area. The audit also focused specifically on driveway widths, parking spaces, vehicle speeds, safety, pavement width and vehicle turning movements, which all impact a person's choice to walk or not to walk, the report notes.

The report then moves onto recommendations and suggestions from the small groups that were formed during the walkability audit. The first group suggested the Renys shopping plaza needs pedestrian sidewalks to the entrance of the plaza and within the parking lot to provide safety for pedestrians walking through the property and to the storefronts.

Another suggestion included studying the intersection of Route 1 and Route 3 for a “gateway single-lane roundabout with one on either side of the overpass. The study should give particular attention to bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles."

Some of the other suggestions include installing pedestrian signs at the crosswalks off of Route 1; installing crosswalk signs at the intersection of Starrett Drive and Main Street; considering creating a mini-roundabout at the Starrett Drive and Main Street intersection; and striping bike lanes on both sides of Route 3 and Main Street in the downtown.

The group also suggested, according to the report, installing sidewalks on both sides of the road in the area of the cemetery; putting a crossing median island at the intersection of Starrett Drive and Lincolnville Avenue intersection; adding bump outs in the Belfast Plaza shopping center near Franklin Street; installing curb extensions to protect parking spaces; making the parking lot one entrance and one exit; and moving the crosswalks to Market Street and making sure they have signage and are well defined.

Other groups suggested moving the Route 1 southbound ramp to the west of the Reny's shopping plaza so that vehicles exit at the traffic signal; relocating the access drives to McDonald's to Starrett Drive; and adding dotted lines in the downtown to show the travel path for vehicles and to indicate the flow of traffic.

The report notes that one group participating in the audit felt the stop line is too far back at the intersection of Main, Church and Beaver streets. However, Dan Burden, the director of inspiration and innovation of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute who was hired to conduct the audit, felt having the stop line set back from the intersection was an asset because it forced vehicles to slowly inch forward into the intersection.

A third group offered recommendations that included narrowing Main Street with an island; considering seeking an easement through the cemetery for pedestrians; adding textured surface to the crosswalks to make them more visible and tactile; and adding additional signage in the downtown.

The report then shifts to comments from Burden who recommends changes to specific areas addressed during the audit.

Renys Plaza area

Burden states more attention should be given to allowing pedestrians to travel more safely from the sidewalk area to the stores. The city can address that issue by either connecting a length of buildings to Route 1, or create a separate route of travel through the parking lot.

Route 1 overpass

There are several options for addressing the Route 1 overpass area with Burden suggesting installing a raised island for pedestrians at the off ramp nearest to the Renys plaza. The island would still accommodate the turning radius required by large trucks, Burden notes.

He also suggested installing properly scaled and designed geometry as opposed to trying to correct a dangerous situation with a traffic signal.

Finally, Burden recommended installing two roundabouts, one on each side, that could be designed to accommodate large trucks and large volumes of traffic. He notes the roundabouts would provide a better gateway to the city.

Gas station area

There are two issues highlighted in the report regarding utility poles being located in the center of the sidewalks and the fact that the sidewalks do not have a good base underneath them. However, the report cites comments from City Planner Wayne Marshall that the city has plans to move the utility poles back and that Belfast is gradually rebuilding the sidewalks with a better base as opposed to only resurfacing the sidewalks.

Rite Aid area

Burden states there is excess width in the travel lanes and that extra width allows vehicles to speed. To address the issue he suggests adding a five to 6-foot-wide bicycle lane with a painted buffer between the vehicle lane and the bicycle lane. The report indicates that Burden felt the road is wide enough to accommodate an 11-foot vehicle travel lane and a buffered bicycle lane.

Cemetery area

Burden suggests installing a raised median island to reduce pedestrian exposure time and distance. He also suggested adding trees and lamps and angling the crossing.

Waldo Avenue and Main Street intersection

Create a crossing that is well marked and signed.

Market Street intersection

Burden suggests reducing the speed limits and adding trees every two or three parking spaces.

Church Street and Market Street intersection

Consider adding a curb extension and using different surfaces for pedestrian crossings.

Main, Church and Beaver streets intersection

Burden does not recommend any significant changes for the area.

In his closing remarks in the report, Burden encouraged the city to create a list of improvements it could begin working on within 100 days of the completion of the audit. He also reiterated many of the suggestions the city can undertake to improve walkability in Belfast.

The walkability audit was funded through a grant program created by the Affordable Care Act.

To read the full report go to friendsmidcoast.org.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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