AUGUSTA — Opposition is mounting to a city proposal to open a one-way portion of Green Street back up to two-way traffic.

A committee of city staff recommends returning the section of Green Street, running from Water Street near Hartford Station to State Street, to two-way traffic. That stretch, which was made one-way in 1963, is the same width as the rest of Green Street that already is two-way.

The city engineer has said sight-lines at the intersection of Green and Water streets are adequate for two-way traffic to return. A lawyer with an office on the street also asked that the city make that section of street open to traffic in both directions.

But some residents and a couple city councilors said they fear allowing two-way traffic will result in accidents at the intersection of Green and Water streets because motorists coming out of Green Street onto Water, a move that is not allowed now, won’t be able to see far enough down Water Street to pull into traffic safely.

“I’m not knowledgeable about traffic engineering, and I’m sure the city engineer is correct when he says it meets minimum requirements,” said resident Mary Saunders. “But I don’t see how anyone leaving Green Street could feel they possibly have enough line of sight to safely turn left on Water Street. I also know, coming up the hill (on Water Street), I can’t see that intersection with Green Street until I’m very close to it. I don’t want to be faced with having a motorist coming out of Green Street into my path, especially in bad weather.”

City councilors on Thursday conducted the first of two required readings of a proposal to amend city ordinance to make that part of Green Street two-way. Councilors expected to discuss it at their next informational meeting Nov. 13, and could take a final vote on the proposal at their Nov. 20 business meeting.

City officials said there is nothing in the record of the 1963 council vote to make that part of the street one-way explaining why the council voted to do so. And city officials said the city does not have accident data for the location prior to 1963.

Walter McKee, whose McKee Billings law firm at 133 State St. is on the corner of State and Green, asked city officials why the street was one-way because he sees no reason why it shouldn’t be two-way.

McKee said that sitting in his office he sees 10 to 15 cars a day go the wrong way on the one-way portion of the street. He said it would be somewhat easier for his firm’s clients to get to and from his office if Green Street were two-way.

“From my office window I can see everybody going up and down that street, and I’ve been struck by how many people go the wrong way,” McKee told councilors during a previous discussion of the issue. “Green Street is the same width all the way up to the top of the hill. There’s really no reason it should be one-way.”

Ward 4 Councilor Mark O’Brien floated the idea of making that part of Green Street two-way but simultaneously also banning left turns coming out of Green Street onto Water Street.

However, Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said Thursday only allowing right turns from Green onto Water would mean a motorist taking Green Street wouldn’t save any time or distance getting to likely destinations in the area. During an Oct. 23 discussion of the proposal, Paradis said he felt it would be unsafe to allow Green Street traffic to enter onto Water Street. He said he’s gotten more constituent calls about the proposal than he has any other issue.

“I think that is going to be a major accident-prone intersection, especially in winter with snow and ice,” Paradis said. “I will never vote to allow that, because it’s going to be a problem for safety. People have called me and said, ‘Please don’t make it back the way it was.'”

City Engineer Lionel Cayer has estimated traffic pulling out of Green onto Water would “conservatively have a (sight) distance of 185 feet from the Green Street intersection.” He said the minimum sight distance listed in the city’s technical standards handbook is 150 feet, but the recommended sight distance in the same handbook is 250 feet.

“Obviously, whenever we can get the recommended we try to do that, but in this case we’re in between the minimum and recommended,” Cayer said of the sight distance. “My professional opinion is that the sight distance of 185 feet makes this not an overly-safe situation, but makes it an acceptable level of service turning out of there, for safety.”

At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick, who previously worked at the MaineHousing building at the foot of the Water Street hill a short distance below the intersection with Green Street, said in the winter when the roads are slippery it can be almost impossible to drive up the hill. McCormick said she is not inclined to favor two-way traffic that would result in Green Street traffic entering onto Water Street just below the crest of the hill.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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