WATERVILLE — City councilors Tuesday night will consider increasing the cost of a traffic-pedestrian study of the intersection of Spring, Water, Main and Bridge streets downtown to include the study of a roundabout-type intersection recommended by Colby College planners.

Adding the Colby suggestion to the study would add $13,350 to its cost, bringing the total fees for the study from $49,000 to $61,600. Colby has offered to pitch in $13,350 to cover the cost of adding a roundabout option to the study, while the city’s share of the funding would increase by $500 — from $24,500 to $25,000.

The goal of the study is to find a way to make the intersection more traffic and pedestrian-friendly.

The city and its consultants, Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Inc. of Gray, had been working on the intersection study when Colby, which has expressed interest in helping to improve the downtown, got involved, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

The city had offered three options to improve the intersection, and a Colby planning consultant added the fourth option.

Roy said Monday that the first option the city came up with would keep the intersection similar to what it is, but eliminate some right-turn lanes. The second option also would be similar but adds crosswalks in different locations to accommodate pedestrian-traffic flow. The third option includes a rotary-type configuration.

The Colby planner’s proposal includes green space at the roundabout’s center. That option, in theory, would be similar to the third option, since both include a circular navigation of the intersecting roads with no traffic signals, but traffic would travel at a slower speed.

“We agreed what he was proposing had some merit to it,” Roy said.

Traffic planners typically attach the terms “rotary” and “roundabout” to different traffic management patterns. Stephen Landry, a traffic engineer with the state Department of Transportation, explained in a November 2013 interview with the Kennebec Journal that a rotary has a larger radius and facilitates traffic continuing at close to established speeds as drivers move to different legs running off the rotary. A roundabout is constructed to slow drivers down as they maneuver to select and make right-hand turns, but there are no left turns across traffic, and vehicles do not travel toward each other, leading to a safer intersection because the chance of head-on or left turn crashes is reduced.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown.

The effort to improve the intersection for traffic and pedestrians started several years ago after the Hathaway Creative Center was created in the former Hathaway Shirt Co. factory at 10 Water St. just south of the intersection. Hundreds of people now work and live in that center, and many regularly walk to and from downtown.

The city promised Hathaway developer Paul Boghossian that a study would be done to try to find ways to make the intersection safer and more user-friendly for those pedestrians.

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

But officials at the time deemed those options too costly, and no change was made to the intersection. Roy said Monday that it was a preliminary study which included the areas around Head of Falls and Front Street and was not an in-depth analysis of the intersection itself.

The City Council late last year voted to hire Gorrill-Palmer to do another study.

The state gave the city a grant for up to $25,000 for the study and the city pitched in $24,500.

“There’s a possibility that the state will contribute up to $1,300 that would reduce Colby’s share,” Roy said.

Any change made at the intersection would have to be approved by the state, as Main Street is U.S. Route 201, a state road and federal highway, according to Roy.

It is uncertain where funding would come from if the city decides to make changes to the intersection.

“The city hasn’t made any decision as to how we would make changes in the intersection,” Roy said Monday. “There’s no question that any work would require outside funding.”

He said that everyone agrees it’s difficult for pedestrians to maneuver the busy intersection.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors will consider refinancing a $2.47 million general obligation bond from 2005, with that refinancing estimated to save the city about $120,000 over the next 10 years.

The council also will consider authorizing Roy to market tax-acquired properties at 38 Carey Lane, 12 Glidden St., 25 Oak St., and 13 Ann St. Council approval is required prior to the actual sale of the properties, Roy said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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