MANCHESTER — Commuters and others coming east through Manchester on U.S. Route 202 headed toward Augusta will find one less travel lane between Old Winthrop Road and Pelton Hill Road come Thursday morning.

Taking the place of one of the two eastbound travel lanes there now will be a center turning lane meant for left-turning traffic from both directions.

State Department of Transportation officials said the reconfiguration of lanes on the busy mile-long section of road is meant to reduce traffic accidents there.

State transportation department spokesman Ted Talbot and traffic engineer Steve Landry said the most common type of accident on the section of road now is vehicles waiting to turn left getting rear-ended by other vehicles. Landry noted that those accidents happen in both directions, and traffic can also back up when a vehicle stops to make a left turn off 202 across traffic in the oncoming lane or lanes.

There were 31 crashes on the stretch of road over a three-year period ending in 2014, eight of which involved injuries to the occupants of the vehicles, according to Landry.

The section of road starting from near J&S Oil and running to Pelton Hill Road near the Augusta-Manchester line is scheduled to be paved at night this week.

Overnight Wednesday into Thursday, new striping will be applied indicating the new lane usage, changing what is now one of two eastbound travel lanes into the center turning lane for both directions.

Talbot said the work is expected to be complete by the morning commute Thursday.

He said officials will monitor traffic after the change to see how it goes.

“Safety is the first concern, when we change traffic patterns like this, it’s safety first,” Talbot said. “But obviously traffic flow is paramount as well. We need to move traffic through an area safely and efficiently. Which is why we’ll be monitoring and looking for feedback, so we can have the safest roadway we can.”

DOT officials are also seeking motorists’ thoughts and opinions about the change and have a survey set up on the transportation department’s website at www.maine.gov/mdot/projects/manchester/rt202/.

Talbot suggested motorists try it out for a while before responding to the survey, so they’ll be better able to judge and discuss its impact on safety, ease of movement and other factors. He said the department is open to hearing positive feedback and any concerns road users may have.

Talbot encouraged motorists to approach the area cautiously as drivers get used to the new traffic pattern.

If the changes don’t work, Talbot noted they could be undone, and the lane usage switched back to its present format simply by painting new striping on the road. The measures of whether the changes work will be how many accidents occur there after the change and public feedback the state receives.

An average of 20,000 vehicles a day travel that section of U.S. Route 202.

Landry said other high-traffic locations with similar configurations include U.S. Route 1 in the southern end of Wiscasset, U.S. Route 1A in Holden, U.S. Route 1 in Wells, U.S. Route 202 in Lewiston by Marden’s and Brighton Avenue in Portland.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj