Friday, January 7, 2022

Windham to weigh options to alleviate Route 302 corridor traffic congestion

The Windham Town Council will vote on adopting the North
Windham Moves Traffic Study during a meeting on Tuesday
evening. The study recommends creating three connector
roads to alleviate congestion and improve mobility and 
safety along the Route 302 corridor in North Windham, 
depending upon available funding.
By Ed Pierce

After decades of having traffic in North Windham grow to the point of gridlock and daily congestion, the rubber is about to hit the road for Windham Town Council members seeking a solution to a longstanding problem.

On Tuesday, councilors will vote to adopt the final report of the North Windham Moves, Regional Mobility, Local Access Transportation Planning and Feasibility Study.  Set up last year as a joint venture between the Town of Windham and the Maine Department of Transportation, the study was conducted by Gorrill Palmer and
North Star Planning and is intended to explore how to alleviate congestion and improve safety and mobility in North Windham.

The study focused specifically on making transportation improvements along Route 302 in North Windham area. It examined the feasibility of creating local connector roads, access management, and implementing corridor and intersection improvements for all forms of transportation using the area.

Prior studies dating back to the 1960s have recommended pedestrian, landscaping, and lighting improvements as well as intersection and signal operational improvements. Some of those recommendations were adopted through the years, but heavy traffic during peak travel times continues to cause congestion, motorist delays and accidents.

The study examined building three new local connector roads to improve local access and to address some of the deficiencies along Route 302.

Concept plans and cost estimates for each alternative were generated during the study and evaluators determined that all three proposed connector roads coupled with improvements to the existing roadways will improve local access, regional mobility, corridor safety and will improve bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in North Windham.

The study follows numerous recent efforts to examine traffic problems experienced in North Windham such as a Service Road Study (2007);  Lakes Region Transit Service Study (2011); 21st Century Downtown Plan (2013); Multi-Modal Route 302 Corridor Plan (2013); Lakes Region Bus Service Assessment (2014); Town of Windham Complete Streets Policy (2014); and the Town of Windham Comprehensive Plan (2017).

Last fall, representatives of Gorrill Palmer and North Star Planning said this study enhances and builds off the good ideas from the prior studies and developed recommendations that can be supported by the public, the town council, and the Maine DOT.

Focusing on the area around and north of Boody’s Corner because of its higher intensity of commercial development, higher traffic volumes, increased levels of congestion, and a higher level of safety concerns, the study only weighed creation of connector roads for locations north of Route 35 and Route 115 and only considered improvements to Route 302 from the River Road intersection up to the Whites Bridge Road intersection.

Major roads looked at in the study were widened in the past to handle higher overall traffic volumes. It details that although there are a few smaller public and private local roads that exist in the area, these  are often dead-end roads or lack the interconnections to make them valuable components of an overall
system beyond the limited direct property access they provide.

Because of that fact, the report indicates that even most of the short car trips in North Windham involve driving on Route 302 or other major streets like Abby Road and Northwood Drive, and on private roads like Franklin Drive, Veterans Memorial Drive, Sandbar Road, Amato Drive, and Trails End Road.

The study recommends that the town look at creating three distinct connector roads.

The East Connector Road would build a roadway beginning at the eastern terminal of Franklin Drive and extending southerly to Route 115. Franklin Drive will also be reconstructed and would serve as a continuation of the East Connector Road. The combined length of this option is about 5,100 feet and would include intersection connections with Veterans Memorial Drive, Sandbar Road and a connection to a realigned Sabbady Point Road.

The proposed Middle Connector Road would build a local roadway beginning at the Franklin Drive and Route 302 intersection and extend southwesterly to Landing Road. The length of this option would be about 700 feet, and it includes intersection connections with Route 302 and Landing Road. This new connector road intersection with Landing Road would not have a traffic signal but would include geometric improvements including turn lanes.

A proposed West Connector Road would build a local roadway beginning at the northerly terminal of Manchester Road and extend northerly to Whites Bridge Road. In this project, Manchester Road would also be reconstructed and will serve as a continuation of the West Connector Road. The combined length of this option would be about 5,800 feet and includes intersection connections with Landing Road, Amato Drive, and Trails End Road. The new connector road intersection with Whites Bridge Road would not have a signal and includes geometric improvements including turn lanes. The existing intersection between Manchester Road and Route 35 will remain unsignalized but will receive geometric improvements under the proposal.

The report says that these connector roads are not intended to serve as bypass routes for regional traffic instead they are intended for local use and purpose. It suggests that when built, these local connector roads would provide access to commercial and residential properties within the area and serve as relief roads from the congested Route 302 corridor.

Report estimates include a cost of $6.4 million to build a West Connector Road, $5.6 million to build an East Connector Road, and $2.1 million to build a Middle Connector Road.

The study and subsequent final report also examined potential property impacts for each connector road option, with total right of way and property acquisition costs amounting to about $2.692 million.

Adoption of the study does not mean that local, state or federal funding would be available for any of these proposals, but it would give the public an indication about how the council intends to address traffic issues moving forward. <

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