WATERVILLE — Creating a more pedestrian-friendly passageway from the Hathaway Creative Center to downtown is the focus of a study expected to be completed by Dec. 19.

City councilors Oct. 7 will consider hiring Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Inc., of Gray for the study, to be funded by the city and a grant from the state Department of Transportation.

The city and state would each pitch in up to $25,000 for the study, with the city’s money coming from a tax increment financing district created several years ago for the Hathaway redevelopment.

Gorrill-Palmer submitted a $42,000 bid for the study. It was the lowest of three bids submitted, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

If the council votes to hire Gorrill-Palmer at that price, the city and state’s cost would be $21,000 each, Roy said Friday.

He said the study would look at all possible solutions for improving the intersection at Water, Spring and Main streets to make it easier for pedestrians to walk downtown from Hathaway, at 10 Water St., and the South End, beyond Hathaway.

Those proposals could include creating a four-way stop or roundabout at the intersection, building an above-ground walkway or a below ground passageway, according to Roy.

He noted that the state will be make sure that no change is made to the intersection that would degrade the current “level of service” for motorists. If a particular change would be less user-friendly to motorists, the change would not be made.

“I think one of the keys in deciding what can and can’t be done is to maintain that level of service,” Roy said.

Since Main Street is a state road — U.S. Route 201 — the state has a role in determining what will be done at the intersection.

When the Hathaway Center was created several years ago, the city promised developer Paul Boghossian that a study would be done to try to find ways to make the intersection safer and more user friendlyr.

Wilbur Smith Associates, of Portland, did a study in 2009 that listed recommendations for possible alternatives to the intersection, including a pedestrian bridge over the intersection and a catwalk below the Ticonic Bridge, which spans the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow.

Officials at the time deemed those options too expensive and no change was made to the intersection.

Roy said Friday that a new study would look at those options, as well as others, in more detail.

INTERSECTION REVIEW

The City Council will consider appointing a study committee to work on the issue, but an informal committee discussing it now recommends Gorrill-Palmer be hired for the study, according to Roy.

Members of the official committee, should it be appointed, would include Roy, Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1; Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6; Boghossian; City Planner Ann Beverage; City Engineer Greg Brown and Assistant City Engineer John Lombardi, according to Roy. City officials plan to ask City Planner Scott Workman to serve, as he is affiliated with bicycle-pedestrian activities in the city.

If an appropriate change to the intersection is identified, officials would look for funding to make the change, including federal and state grants, Roy said. City officials requested a Dec. 19 preliminary deadline for the intersection study to be completed and reported, he said.

“After the report is delivered, then there are meetings afterward to say, ‘what do we want to do and say next?'” Roy said.

Boghossian said Friday that city officials asked him if he would serve on the study committee, and he said he would be happy to do so.

The issue is important, both to him and to Waterville, he said.

“That intersection is just formidable now and we like to consider ourselves part of downtown,” Boghossian said. He said the intersection, though, is hard to cross, especially in winter.

“It’s very, very difficult for pedestrians,” he said.

The Hathaway Center has 67 apartments on its upper floors and most are occupied. Boghossian says one of the reasons the apartments are so successful is that tenants want to be able to walk downtown to dinner or to shop, get a prescription filled or attend cultural functions.

“We just need to make it easier for us to be part of downtown,” he said.

Boghossian has long maintained that in order for a downtown to be successful, there must be people living and working there.

Stubbert, the council chairman, believes that in order for downtown to be safer and more user-friendly, traffic on Main and Front streets should be returned to two-way, the way it was many years ago.

TWO-WAY TRAFFIC

City officials had earlier this year discussed possibly including a study of two-way traffic downtown as part of the intersection study, but Roy emphasized Friday that the intersection study will not include such a study. The state has made it clear the funding for the intersection study is not to be used for that, Roy said.

He said it is possible the city would launch a study of two-way traffic after the intersection study is complete, but that is up to the council. The council also would be the one to authorize funding for such a study.

Meanwhile, Stubbert says traffic on Main Street downtown moves so quickly, it is dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians and the situation is not conducive to drawing people downtown.

He said he wants Waterville to consider a system used in a town in England where the traffic was so bad in the center of town, it literally divided the town in two sections.

“People didn’t want to cross the streets — it was a mad house,” Stubbert said. “They eliminated traffic lights, narrowed the streets and gave right-of-way to pedestrians. It really straightened out all their problems. I’ve asked the city to definitely consider that for the lower part of Main Street here.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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