AUGUSTA — A contentious proposal to change a one-way section of Green Street to two-way traffic is scheduled to be decided by city councilors Thursday.

The section of road is just 750 feet long and provides access to a church, a couple of businesses and a handful of residences, but which direction of travel motorists may take on it has divided residents and stirred debate about safety and convenience. City councilors have discussed the possible change since July.

Veteran Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said he’s gotten more calls about the proposal than he has any other issue.

Mayor David Rollins said Tuesday he’s not sure what the council will decide to do.

“I think it’s going be a close vote. I think it’s going to be a 4-3 vote one way or the other,” Rollins said. “I don’t know if everybody has decided.”

Rollins, as mayor, would vote on the issue if there is a tie vote, an unlikely scenario since his former at-large council seat is vacant, leaving seven councilors who potentially could vote.

Rollins said he’s heard from two constituents.

“I heard from two people, and they’re split,” he said. “One person grew up in the area and remembered it being two ways and didn’t recall there being a lot of accidents there. The other, who doesn’t live in the area, was concerned, because she goes to Green Street and finds it to be a difficult turn already.”

City officials said the section of road was changed to one-way in 1963 by a council vote, but there was nothing in the record of that vote indicating why the change was made.

The city’s traffic calming committee recommended the change to two-way with proponents saying it would be more convenient for motorists to be able to travel both ways on the street and there is no good reason for it not to be two-way. Opponents argue motorists coming from Green Street onto Water Street won’t be able to see far enough down the hill to spot oncoming traffic in order to pull out from Green Street safely.

Walter McKee, a local defense attorney whose McKee Billings law firm at 133 State St. is on the corner of State and Green, has been a vocal advocate for the switch to two-way traffic there. He joked at last week’s council meeting that people he runs into on the street don’t want to talk about his big cases or courtroom wins; they want to talk to him about the short section of Green Street and whether it should be one- or two-way.

McKee said it’d be somewhat more convenient for his customers to be able to travel both ways on the road, but he noted he’s not the one who initiated the proposal. He also said numerous motorists already go the wrong way on the street, but without getting into accidents.

“When I talk to people about it, I get the same response each time. People wonder why it was ever made one-way in the first place,” McKee said. “This started with the traffic calming committee. And more importantly, public safety officials have looked at this and determined it’s safe — not because a business owner wants it, but because they looked at it themselves.”

Lionel Cayer, the city engineer, has said visibility at the intersection of Green and Water streets is adequate for two-way traffic and to allow turns from Green onto Water, which don’t occur now.

Paradis, however, has said he and many constituents who have called him think it would be unsafe to allow Green Street traffic to enter onto Water Street.

Ward 4 Councilor Mark O’Brien said last week a former city councilor, Alden Ingraham, told him he recalls part of the street becoming one-way because the fire chief at the time didn’t want firetrucks leaving nearby Hartford Station and encountering traffic coming out of Green Street.

O’Brien said his preference is to allow two-way traffic on Green Street but ban left turns from Green onto Water, thus avoiding the potential for conflict between motorists pulling out of Green across one lane of Water Street into the opposite lane and motorists passing by on Water Street.

Councilors are scheduled to take a final vote on the proposal at their Thursday meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center. Councilors also are scheduled to consider:

• approving a resolution in favor of exploring bringing passenger train service back to the city;

• asking the Maine Historic Preservation Commission to survey the city’s downtown area, which officials said is the first step in having the downtown designated a National Historic District;

• allowing City Manager William Bridgeo to contract with Keenan Auction Company to auction off tax-acquired property at 94 Winthrop St.;

• authorizing Bridgeo to apply for a $350,000 U.S Forest Service grant to help Kennebec Land Trust acquire the Howard Hill property in Augusta;

• authorizing Bridgeo to enter into a lease agreement with the company that owns the Ballard Center, which is the former MaineGeneral hospital on East Chestnut Street, for about 20,000 square feet in the building for 18 months to provide a temporary home to Lithgow Public Library during the library’s upcoming renovation and expansion.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj