2012-11-02 / Community

Guest Column

Reader offers suggestions for city’s traffic
By Pamela Thomas
(As sent to South Portland Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser)

Thank you for attending the meeting regarding East Broadway traffic issues and listening to citizen concerns and short- and long-term solutions. I particularly appreciate you reversing your agenda to allow citizens to speak first. This is a summary of my suggestions for improving pedestrian safety on Broadway. I respectfully request you not wait for yet another study to be completed before implementing some of these suggestions. I study the traffic on Broadway every day, at all hours of the day, when I attempt to cross or pull in or out of my driveway. I have lived on this corner for eight years, crossing twice daily to walk my dog and coming in and out of my driveway in my vehicle, more than twice daily. Here is what you can do now to make an immediate difference:

1. Improve signs directly at each end of each crosswalk. Include a (three-foot by three-foot) fixed to the ground in the center of the crosswalk flexible sign, double sided, with the state law yield sign. (If they can use these on Stevens Avenue in Portland and major city thoroughfares, wide and narrow, around the county, surely we could have five of them on Broadway crosswalks.)

2. Instead of a speed bump, either texturize the asphalt inside the crosswalk (similar to what they are doing on the on ramp sides of I-295), which would caution regular motorists every time they pass over it, to snap out of their monotony and respect the intersection. Also, paint the inside of the crosswalk bright yellow (not green for go).

3. The state law requires a pedestrian to step out into the traffic before the traffic must come to a stop. At the corner of Broadway and Preble Street, there are two issues that make this death-defying attempt at crossing, suicidal. There is not a wide enough shoulder to step into on either side of the street. Stepping into traffic at the crosswalk with a dog on a leash, a baby in a carriage or a child with a bicycle is even more challenging. You pray the first vehicle will stop. The problem is, now that there are so many cars moving in packs, the first car may stop but the second and third cars, whose drivers are often distracted, rear ends the first and the pedestrian is still at risk for being run down.

4. As you know, the pedestrian crosswalk at Preble and Broadway (not far from the Betsy Ross House) is used regularly to access the Greenbelt Trail at Preble extension. There are a number of large deciduous trees that hang over the intersection. The city removed one of the two street lights that illuminated the intersection after conducting their “study” when the leaves were off the trees. Cars traveling west on Broadway, from SMCC, Joe’s Boat House and the Breakwater are often doing more than 40 mph at the crest of the hill, right before they come upon the dark crosswalk. There is no signage leading up to and warning drivers of the crosswalk on the other side of the crest of the hill. We need advanced road signage and an overhead sign that illuminates when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. As darkness falls earlier in winter and pedestrians are frequently at the dinner hour when drivers are racing to their destinations, it is even more imperative that this crosswalk is properly illuminated and signed.

From another angle, drivers attempting to take a left out of Preble and head west on Broadway often do not notice pedestrians across the street attempting to cross Broadway. The pedestrian is often in the driver’s blind spot and if it is afternoon, the driver is blinded by the sun. The driver is looking left and right gauging when to gun it into the flowing lane of traffic. The pedestrian often can not see through the glare of the driver’s downhill-facing windshield and cannot not see if the driver is beckoning them to cross. I have witnessed a number of times a Broadway driver stops for a pedestrian and the Preble driver thinks that stop is allowing them to proceed left only to jam on the breaks, surprised a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

5. The entrance crosswalks, particularly at Preble Street, could be beefed up with three-foot high concrete pillars or planters on the edge of the sidewalk designating the crosswalk.

Driving a car is a privilege. Walking safely across our streets is a right. I urge you to take immediate action to improve our crosswalks.

I have filled out police driver complaint reports to no avail – they are put in the circular file. I have watched two neighbors, each with a brand-new baby in a carriage and a dog on a leash, struggle to cross the street to walk on the Greenbelt. I have watched my neighbor’s two middle school aged-boys who live on the Preble corner, try to walk their bikes across the street to get on to the Greenbelt Trail and give up and take another route. I, myself, have had so many close calls with motorists who speed up when they see me in the crosswalk, and some who swerve around me into the other lane when I am in the middle of the crosswalk. Drivers do not want to step on the brake. They want to go. More and more of the drivers on Broadway have their heads down and appear to be texting. You need to calm the traffic and reduce the volume.

The college had recently added an auxiliary parking lot on Benjamin Pickett Street with donated space at an empty industrial building, Instead of providing more parking at the end of Broadway, there should be less. The school should locate a satellite parking lot on the other side of Casco Bay Bridge and another close to I-295/ I-95 and express buses should be run in the morning, midday and day’s end, that encourage students to ride and text. Who knows, maybe there are other empty lots that might consider donating their lease to the college?

Broadway is a racetrack to a college degree. I applaud all the students overcoming all the hurdles they have in their lives to get to class on time and further their educations. If we give an incentive for taking the bus and make parking more difficult at the end of this dead end road thoroughfare, people will adjust. As neighbors, we have adjusted our schedules, to get to where we want to go. Let’s make our road safer to cross at cross walks.

Also sent on behalf of her husband, J. Scott Thomas.

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