AUGUSTA — City councilors agreed to form a new committee to work on renaming similar road names that have caused confusion for emergency responders who, if they go to the wrong road, could end up on the opposite side of the city, miles from where their help is needed.

Dan Guimond, a Fire Department battalion chief, said similar-sounding road names cause confusion for emergency responders every year.

Matt Nazar, deputy development director and E-911 addressing coordinator for the city, said the road names also cause confusion for package deliverers and others who need to find addresses.

Similar road names cited by Guimond and Nazar include: Meadow Brook Road, Meadow Drive, Meadow Lane, Meadow Road and Meadowrue Drive, some of which are on opposite sides of the river from the others; Mount Vernon Avenue, Mount Vernon Place and Mount Vernon Road, which are on the same side of the river but miles from each other; and School Street, Sewall Street and School Street Extension, which are on opposite sides of the river.

In the case of Ingraham Mountain Road, it has a single road name, shared by a road that is impassable in the middle so it is, effectively, two roads on either end, with the same name.

Guimond said it would be helpful if one end were renamed so responders to an emergency on the road would know to which end of the road they should go.

However, road renaming has proven controversial in the past, in Augusta and elsewhere.

Nazar said residents may not want to give up a road name because it has historical significance, or it could be named for someone they are related to, and businesses may have a financial stake in that the road name is part of the businesses’ identity.

Once they do agree to have a road name changed, residents still may have a hard time agreeing on what, exactly, to rename it.

City Manager William Bridgeo warned, “In 35 years in city management, the thing I’ve observed to be the most challenging thing municipal officials do is name stuff.”

Bridgeo noted, however, that in the end it is the council’s decision what the name of a public road in Augusta will be.

In 2002, in preparation for the since-implemented statewide E-911 system, Augusta named private roads and renamed about a dozen city roads that had names similar to others, complying with a state directive for new road-naming standards.

Even so, Augusta still has several similar-sounding road names.

Nazar and Guimond said in a memo to the council that emergency responders “try to carefully understand where they are supposed to go on a call, but confusion on the part of the caller, the dispatcher or the responder can result in tragedy.”

Nazar said the latest discussion of road names in Augusta was prompted in part by anticipation of the changes coming to north Augusta near the new MaineGeneral Medical Center next year. Old Belgrade Road will be split by a traffic circle on the west side of Interstate 95 and Route 3 will run along Old Belgrade Road to Civic Center Drive. The traffic changes, officials noted, may require some road name changes.

Councilors agreed to form a committee to work with city staff on the issue and make recommendations.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]