OAKLAND — The Department of Transportation may add a half-mile turn lane to an area of Kennedy Memorial Drive on a part of the road that one official said is in need of a “road diet.”

A planned Dunkin’ Donuts on the road prompted the discussion. Cafua Management Co., a Massachusetts developer that specializes in building franchise locations for the restaurant, is planning to build a Dunkin’ Donuts at 848 Kennedy Memorial Drive next to Waterville Custom Kitchens, according to engineers working with the developer.

Dave Allen, the midcoast region traffic engineer for the department, said in an interview Wednesday that the department is thinking about changing the traffic configuration from the Oakland town line to Country Club Road from the four lanes there are now to two travel lanes with a middle turning lane.

The plan already has full support from Town Manager Gary Bowman, who said Wednesday that it will solve problems with speeding, accidents and the lack of a breakdown lane on that stretch of Kennedy Memorial Drive.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea for that part of town,” Bowman said.

The new Dunkin’ Donuts will require at least a left-hand turn lane, but a preliminary report and scoping meeting with town officials indicated the road was “ripe for what is commonly known as a road diet,” Allen said.

The new traffic configuration would make it easier to turn left into businesses along the road and would create a larger road shoulder that would be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, he said.

The downside is that turning right, with traffic, might take more time. The Dunkin’ Donuts developer is expected to pay for the cost of repainting the road, which could happen as early as next spring, Allen said.

Although the lane reconfiguration would be authorized by the transportation department, Allen and engineers from Plymouth Engineering and Maine Traffic Resources representing Cafua attended the Oakland Town Council meeting Wednesday to present the plan and get public input. On Wednesday afternoon, Allen said the department wanted to make sure it had buy-in from the town before proceeding further.

“Obviously, if Oakland doesn’t support it, I don’t think it is the right thing to do,” Allen said.

Opposition to the proposal was muted among the approximately 20 people who attended the meeting Wednesday night. Residents wondered whether reducing the number of lanes would create a bottleneck where it starts at the traffic lights near Interstate 95 and whether it would make it more difficult to turn onto the road.

Ray Cote, who owns Waterville Custom Kitchens, said he favors a turning lane but asked why it had taken a new development for the problem to be addressed. He had been in business on Kennedy Memorial Drive for more than 40 years and had to deal with the “mess” on the road, which is dangerous and makes it hard for people to get to his business, he said.

“This should have been addressed a long time ago, as far as I’m concerned,” Cote said.

Allen said changing the road would have a calming effect on traffic along the strip. The area has a 35-mph speed limit, but when he did some radar tests on Wednesday afternoon, most drivers were doing 38 mph to 42 mph and one car was clocked at 62 mph, Allen said.

The safety issue led some to ask whether a turn lane could be put in on the road all the way to downtown Oakland. Fire Chief Dave Coughlin said that there are problems with traffic turning left onto Alpine Street and into the new Dollar General store that could be addressed with a new lane layout.

“If we look at it from a safety standpoint, why are we just looking at it in front of Dunkin Donuts?” Coughlin said.

Allen said the developer saw extending the lane down the length of Kennedy Memorial Drive as a “fairness issue” because it would be paying for the upgrade. The town can ask the department to consider converting the road to add a turning lane, he said. State and Hospital streets in Augusta and U.S. Route 201 in Manchester are examples of this type of traffic pattern, Allen said.

Cafua still needs to conduct a traffic study and get a transportation department permit to create the turning lane. The Dunkin’ Donuts development itself needs building permits from the town but does not need to go through a site plan review with the Planning Board because the structure is less than 2,500 square feet in size, the threshold for a review according to town ordinance, Bowman said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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