State officials say work will begin this week to create rumble strips along a troublesome section of U.S. Route 202 where seven people have died in crashes since 2003.

Shawn Smith, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said the project will begin Thursday morning and should be completed by Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a quick project,” he said. “This should make a pretty big improvement in safety in that corridor.”

There were 28 head-on or near head-on crashes between 2009 and 2013 on U.S. 202, according to state figures. Those crashes resulted in 28 serious injuries.

There have been seven crash deaths since 2003 on the section of road where strips will be installed. Four of those deaths were the result of a head-on crash, according to the state and published reports. The most recent fatal head-on crash occurred in March and claimed the life of 71-year-old Richard Leighton. That crash occurred during a snowstorm that left the road covered in slush.

Officials had considered doing the work at night because of heavy commuter traffic, but after consideration determined the work could be done during off-peak hours without a significant disruption. Work will begin around 7:30 a.m. Thursday and should take six hours or less that day. Traffic will continue to flow in both directions without disruption because of the paved shoulders that line the route.

“We’ll reroute everyone around us,” Smith said.

The plan calls for centerline and some white edge line rumble strips over about a 5-mile section of road where the most accidents occur between Annabessacook Road in the west and Welches Point Road in the east. There will be five segments of strips on the section of road where the speed limit exceeds 45 mph. There is a 55-mph limit through much of town.

The plan calls for rumble strips on the white edge lines around the Route 135 intersection.

The project will cost about $35,000 and will be covered by state transportation funds.

The work of cutting out the rumble strips will be completed Thursday, barring a mechanical failure, Smith said. There will be no work on Friday. Crews will return Monday to seal the strips that are cut into the pavement. They will return Tuesday to re-stripe the lines over the strips.

Smith said the pavement must be dry to seal and paint it, so rain either day could delay the finish.

Smith said there will be signs and message boards to remind drivers of the impending work.

Transportation officials hope adding the strips, which cause a loud noise and vibration designed to alert inattentive drivers, will halve the number of head-on crashes.

There are eight roads in Maine with centerline rumble strips, and the results have been impressive. Strips were added in 2006 to Route 4 in Turner and U.S. Route 1 in Woolwich. Strips were added to roads in Hancock and York counties last year.

In the six years before rumble strips were added on Route 4 and U.S. Route 1, there were 21 head-on crashes and eight deaths, according to the state. There have been 10 head-on crashes, none of which were fatal, in the six years since. Duane Brunell, DOT safety manager, said there have been no crash deaths on any roads where centerline strips were installed.

Brunell said the state considers speed and traffic volume when deciding where to add centerline rumble strips. The department also is considering strips on U.S. Route 202 in neighboring Monmouth, where a fatal head-on crash occurred just weeks before the crash that killed Leighton.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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