WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday approved studying a possible roundabout at the intersection of Spring, Water, Bridge and Main streets, but not before a Winslow man told them it would be a waste of time and money.

The city is studying ways to make the intersection more user-friendly for pedestrians as part of a promise it made to Hathaway Creative Center developer Paul Boghossian several years ago.

The state pitched in $25,000 for the recent study and the city matched it with $24,500. As part of its interest in helping improve the downtown, Colby College more recently offered to donate $13,350 to study a possible roundabout at the intersection.

Councilors voted 7-0 Tuesday to increase the cost of the study from $49,000 to $61,600, increase the city’s share by $500 and accept Colby’s donation of $13,350.

The city had come up with three possible options for improving the intersection — two that would keep the intersection basically the way it is now but would add crosswalks and eliminate some right-turn lanes, and a third option that would create a rotary-type scenario, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

W. Elery Keene, of Winslow, told councilors that he uses the bridge next to the intersection quite often and he doesn’t think it a good idea to build a roundabout there.

He said there was once a traffic circle there, and he was glad when it was converted to the intersection that is there now.

Keene told the council that he has a master’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, and that he gained experience in traffic planning and downtown planning while living about eight years in Wisconsin before moving to the Waterville area in 1970.

He said the intersection is close to the busy downtown, and there should be a lot of pedestrian traffic there.

“I still consider roundabouts at a busy downtown location to be accident-prone,” he said.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Mayor Nick Isgro noted that councilors Tuesday were not deciding whether to consider putting a roundabout there, but whether to accept Colby’s donation to study the roundabout option and increase the city’s share of study input from $24,500 to $25,000. The city’s funding comes from tax-increment financing money.

Keene said he understood, but wanted to say one last thing: “I think it’s a waste of money for Colby or the city to spend any more money for looking at this alternative.”

Roy said the city’s study of possible improvements to the intersection was nearly complete when Colby came forward with the idea of studying a roundabout.

“A lot is going to have to happen before any changes happen in the intersection, no matter what they look like,” Roy said. “U.S. Route 201 (Main Street) is a state and federal highway. It can’t be changed without state and federal approval, no matter what option is the one recommended.”

Roy said the cost of any improvement and how it will be funded are unknowns.

He pointed to an old framed photograph on the council chamber wall that shows the former rotary at the intersection and said a Colby consultant had seen it.

Roy said the state requires that any intersection change not lower the level of service motorists now have at the intersection.

“The level-of-service factor is a big one,” he said.

Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, asked Roy whether a rotary or roundabout probably would be less pedestrian-friendly, as there would be no traffic signals there.

“That’s a reasonable argument — yes,” Roy replied. “I thought that same thing myself. I don’t know.”

Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, said she remembered the rotary at the intersection site when she was a child. She said the city should take the time to study the roundabout option.

“Thank you to Colby,” she said.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said the redesign of Cony Circle in Augusta greatly enhanced the rotary and the city has had good success with it, a low accident rate, and pedestrians are getting around well.

“They’ve had no problems,” he said.

In other matters Tuesday, Jackie Dupont, co-chairwoman of the South End Neighborhood Association, said the Friends of Green Street Park, which is trying to improve the park off Sherwin Hill, will hold a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Muskie Center, and everyone is invited. She also said she was looking for people to donate bicycles for a bicycle swap to be held May 2 in the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program parking lot. Bicycles will be given away at that event, which will follow a bicycle repair event April 18.

Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said the South End Neighborhood Association meets 9 a.m. Saturdays and members volunteer their time to help not only the South End, but other parts of the city as well.

“These events help children in the neighborhood, so donate a bike — go to the bike swap,” Bushee said. “It’s just a great group. I wish we had more groups like SENA in Waterville.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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