Searsport considers pedestrian safety improvements

By Jordan Bailey | May 21, 2017
Photo by: Jordan Bailey The school zone at Searsport District Elementary School, pictured here, does not have sidewalks. The city is considering applying for state funding to extend the sidewalk on Mortland Road to run the length of the campuses of the elementary, middle and high schools.

North Searsport — At a selectmen’s meeting at North Searsport Fire Department May 16, Police Chief Richard LaHaye spoke to the board about potential pedestrian safety improvements that could be funded through the Maine Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program.

LaHaye attended a DOT pedestrian safety training May 11 where he discussed with the program manager projects that would be eligible for funding. For the section of Mortland Road at Searsport District Elementary, Middle and High schools, they discussed installing signs with flashing lights to alert motorists that they are approaching a school zone, extending the sidewalk about 400 feet to run the length of the campus, and painting two or three crosswalks to the schools.

“We do patrol and run radar there, but having these lights, sidewalks and crosswalks would be hugely beneficial to the school and to the town,” LaHaye said.

The program funds projects up to $400,000 and requires a 20-percent local funding match. Towns must secure the local-match funds before submitting applications, which are due Aug. 15, according to the Maine DOT website.

LaHaye was quoted roughly $75,000 for the cost of the Mortland Road improvements, based on May 11 prices, with the town’s share coming out to approximately $15,000. LaHaye said the school district has indicated it is willing to partner with the town in applying for the funding and sharing the cost.

“I’m sure the parents in this community who have children walking, biking to school would be in favor of the Mortland Road project,” LaHaye said, and urged parents to write letters of support and attend meetings. “I think right now this is a huge opportunity for the community. I just don’t think we ought to hold back. Whatever the community thinks they need, I think they gotta lay it on the table and see where the funding shakes out.”

LaHaye said other projects that could go into an application for funding through the MeDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program include sidewalks on Prospect and Church streets and possibly converting a section of Church Street to one-way.

Selectmen agreed that something needed to be done about Church Street. The road is narrow and cars are often parked in the shoulder, making it difficult to navigate for pedestrians as well as buses that use the road when dropping off students at the back of the school gym on their return from sports meets.

Chairman Jack Merrithew said, “I know first-hand what it’s like to try to drive a fire truck through there when there are cars on both sides of the road.”

The selectmen will meet at 6:30 p.m. June 6, a half-hour prior to their next meeting, to walk a section of Church Street and then hold a workshop at the Town Hall.

Because LaHaye and other Searsport officials attended the training, the town is eligible for a free flashing pedestrian-crossing sign from DOT, and will be responsible only for the cost of installation. LaHaye said the sign should be delivered by the end of the summer and can be operated as a temporary unit at the crosswalk near Tozier's Market until it can be fully installed when the sidewalks are removed during Route 1 reconstruction scheduled for 2018.

Merrithew suggested the Economic Development Committee be reconvened to help with downtown revitalization plans and to coordinate town projects with the reconstruction project.

In other business, the board authorized Town Manager James Gillway to award a paving contract to the most qualified applicant with the lowest bid, and approved awarding a bond anticipation note to Bangor Savings Bank to fund the paving. The town plans to repair and pave at 24 locations.

The board also accepted the resignation of Officer Dennis Remillard and promoted Officer Dan Owens from part-time to full-time. Owens worked 25 years with the FBI, and recently retired from Ellsworth Police department after 10 years of service.

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Jordan M Bailey
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Jordan Bailey has been working for The Republican Journal since 2013. She studied philosophy at Boston College and has experience in marine science education and journalism. She lives in Belfast.

 

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