2012-08-24 / Front Page

Dunstan Corner project ready to go out to bid

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

By this time next year residents, commuters and visitors to town will find the Dunstan Corner area of Scarborough much more efficient. An improvement project is expected to begin next month. (Michael Kelley photo) By this time next year residents, commuters and visitors to town will find the Dunstan Corner area of Scarborough much more efficient. An improvement project is expected to begin next month. (Michael Kelley photo) Commuters frustrated by traffic jams on Route 1 in Scarborough near Dunstan Corner will have some relief from the bottlenecks they’ve seen over the summer by this time next year.

The Maine Department of Transportation is accepting bids from contractors for a construction project that will change traffic patterns on the intersection of Payne Road and Route 1 as well as Route 1’s intersection with Pine Point Road and Broadturn Road.

Construction will begin on the project this fall. Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall projected work will begin late September or early October. He said work will finish by June 26, before tourist traffic becomes heavy around the Fourth of July.

Payne Road is currently as a connector for commuters on their way to Interstate-95, while beach-goers head down Pine Point Road on their way to Pine Point Beach. The traffic lights at those two intersections of Route 1 are separated by just a few hundred feet, which Hall said can lead to the traffic jams common in that area.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said one aspect of the construction project will move the point where Payne Road meets Route 1. The intersection will shift north behind the Dunstan School Restaurant. That will serve two purposes, Bacon said.

One, the change will more than double the space between the traffic signal at the Payne Road intersection and the light at the intersection of Broadturn Road and Pine Point Road. Currently, Bacon said, those lights are so close together that cars don’t have room to adequately queue in the left-turn lane. The spillover causes backups that Hall said can sometimes stretch back all the way back to Anjon’s Italian Restaurant on the north end and equally far on the south side.

Secondly, the new Payne Road intersection with Route 1 will discourage drivers who travel up the coast from turning onto Payne Road to access I-95. The Payne Road route to the interstate will now take longer than the Route 1 to Haigis Parkway route, and the town hopes reduced traffic will make the residential section of Payne Road safer. The study that led to this fall’s improvements started with the goal to ease traffic on the residential west side of Payne Road.

Right now, the route to I-95 from Route 1 in Scarborough is shorter via Payne Road, but Bacon said time-wise the trip is “six in one, a half dozen in the other.”

“If you take both ways yourself you’ll see there’s not much of a difference to get to the interstate. The main point is to alleviate some of the stress,” said Maine Department of Transportation Project Manager Ernie Martin.

The changes won’t completely divert traffic off of Payne Road.

“Old habits die hard,” said Assistant Town Manager Jay Chase, but Bacon expects a reduction on the residential street by 20 to 30 percent after the work is finished.

Because the improvements will affect commuters who travel through more than just one town, the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System has had the project on its radar for more than a decade, Bacon said. When the Dunstan Corner project worked its way to the top of the priority list for PACTS, the organization applied to the state for funding, and received approval from the MDOT.

“Frankly this is an issue that is far beyond Scarborough. It’s in our town but it’s a project of regional significance and importance. That’s why we were able to obtain significant funding,” Hall said.

The MDOT and federal government will fund much of the project, between 70 and 80 percent, Bacon said, with the town “match” accounting for the rest. Martin did not specify the exact cost of the project because the state is still receiving bids from contractors.

“It’s a pretty congested area with all the intersections coming together at once,” Martin said. “It’s too severe for the existing conditions to control that in a safe manner, and there is a high rate of accidents out there.”

Additional work at Dunstan Corner will also reduce some seasonal traffic in the area. The turning lanes from Pine Point Road and Broadturn Road onto Route 1 will be realigned to ensure safety and make the turn more convenient for drivers.

“When you’re sitting at a stoplight, those lanes don’t line up well at this time,” Chase said.

The improvements will ease the flow of traffic next summer, but in the winter and spring while crews are working on the project, drivers can expect delays at the busy intersection. Bacon said some of the work can be done without interrupting traffic, such as creating the new Payne Road intersection, but other parts of the project, especially the work done to Route 1, will cause delays.

But Martin said contractors have a “good plan to follow,” and he hopes traffic delays will be minimal.

“I would suspect there will be delays. In a perfect world, I’d say we won’t have any delays at all, but that’s not feasible,” Martin said. “If we can get the work (started) this fall and bang it out in the spring before we get to July, I think everybody will be happy.” Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at leader.mainelymediallc.com

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