AUGUSTA — Users of a short one-way section of Green Street have two distinct ways of viewing a city proposal to open it to two-way traffic.

For. And against.

City officials are considering whether to change the stretch of Green Street between Water and State streets from one-way to two-way, following a question asked by local attorney Walter McKee after he and partners opened a law office there.

His question: Why is that section of Green Street — which appears to be the same width as the upper, already two-way section of the street — restricted to one-way?

“One reason it struck me is, as I sit here in the office, I see 10 to 15 cars a day going the wrong way, and not having any problems at all,” McKee said Friday of what prompted his request to the city.

Multiple users of the street, and some city councilors, however, said allowing traffic in both directions there could be unsafe because of what they described as poor sight lines for motorists who’d be coming off Green Street onto Water Street, a direction of travel not allowed in the current configuration.

Mary Saunders, who attends Green Street United Methodist Church, which is prominent on that short section of one-way street, said motorists coming out of Green Street onto Water Street would not be able to see far enough down the hill to be able to pull out safely. She said when she comes up Water Street she “can’t see the foot of Green Street until I’m right there on top of it.”

Stanley Koski, a former city councilor and a lifelong Augusta resident who previously worked in the former Central Maine Power offices at the Green and Water streets intersection, said he saw multiple bad accidents at the site, involving motorists pulling out of the CMP parking lot onto the end of Green Street to get onto Water Street.

“I recall seeing some very significant car accidents at the intersection, from cars wanting to make a left turn to go down Water Street,” Koski said at a Thursday city council meeting. “I think that should really be considered before you go ahead and ratify going two-way.”

McKee said he doesn’t believe there would be issues with motorists coming off Green onto Water street not being able to see far enough to safely enter traffic. He noted the intersection is not particularly congested.

Lesley Jones, public works director, said Lionel Cayer, city engineer, reviewed and recommends the proposal to make the street two-way. She noted the speed limit on both streets there is only 25 mph. She said city staff were unable to determine when, or why, it was made a one-way street in the first place.

Jones said Fire Chief Roger Audette also supports the change. The city’s main fire station, Hartford, is on the opposite side of the intersection of Green and Water. Jones said when fire trucks come back to the station from parts of the city above that part of Green Street, they have to go around Memorial Circle to get back to Hartford. They could take Green Street back to the station if it were two-way.

Lee Ware, vice president of the board of trustees of Green Street United Methodist Church, said he has spoken to about a dozen people at the church about the two-way street proposal and each of them were opposed to the change. He said the people he talked to were worried about the safety of getting out of parking spaces by the church and into two-way traffic, and that parking on the north side of the street could be banned if traffic is made two-way. Ware said some people may be opposed to changing it from one-way traffic “because it has always been that way.”

Ware said he’s 80 years old and he doesn’t remember that part of the road ever being two-way.

Jones said parking on the north side of the street could be retained even if the street were made two-way. She suggested trying it two-way for six months to a year.

Councilors, however, said they want to discuss the safety aspects of the change more, with Cayer present, before they decide what to do.

“I have reservations,” said Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis. “I don’t believe the line of vision is that adequate, when you have to cross a lane to go north on Water Street (from Green Street). There’s an old New England saying, ‘Don’t tear down the fence without first finding out why it was put up.'”

Meanwhile, city public works crews are already working on the Green and Water street intersection, ripping up pavement that Jones said makes up a large open “no man’s land” in the middle of the intersection and putting in a triangular section of what will be green space.

Jones said the intersection improvements will work no matter what traffic flow is chosen for the road, one-way or two.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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