WATERVILLE — A traffic study that identifies options for making Main and Front streets downtown two-way instead of one-way as part of an estimated $4.4 million project is finally in the city’s hands and available to the public on the city’s website.

The study, conducted by the city’s consultant, Gorrill Palmer, of Portland, says making the roads two-way would allow commuter and through traffic to pass through downtown more quickly via Front Street and make Main Street downtown more of a destination spot.

“Current traffic patterns push traffic through and around downtown rather than invite customers to the shops, restaurants, cultural venues and businesses that are its lifeblood,” the report’s executive summary says.

The city, Colby College and the state Department of Transportation funded the $102,000 study, and officials from the three entities helped work on the report.

The scenario for two-way traffic in the heart of downtown would include making intersection and landscaping improvements, more pedestrian-friendly walkways and a managed parking program.

“The preliminary opinion of construction cost estimate for road and intersection improvements is $4.4M in 2016 dollars,” the summary says. “Significant additional design work will be required to develop a construction plan acceptable to the MaineDOT and Federal Highway Administration. This preliminary opinion of construction cost does not include the cost of final design, Right-of-Way acquisition, landscaping or streetscape features.”

City and Colby officials, businesses, arts organizations and residents met several times in 2015 to help plan for downtown revitalization. The revitalization effort, which included the traffic study, is expected to bring more people to live, work and shop downtown. With all the planned development, the city wanted to review what effect those changes would have on vehicle and pedestrian traffic, parking and bicycling.

Revitalization efforts got a massive boost last October when the Harold Alfond Foundation and Colby officials announced they will infuse $20 million into projects to launch what eventually will become “tens of millions of dollars more” in downtown investments. The Alfond Foundation pledged a $10 million grant toward a special fund for revitalization, matching Colby’s $10 million investment.

City Manager Mike Roy said in a statement that there is no established timeline for the city to act on the question of whether to make downtown Main Street two-way traffic and that any such decision is likely a year or more away.

“The recently completed Traffic Study Report provides a blueprint for how this can be accomplished but there are a number of important questions that need to be addressed before any action can be taken,” Roy said in the statement. “How will this project be funded? How soon will proposed developments in and around Main Street be completed and how will those projects affect traffic, parking, etc. It is probably safe to assume that any decision on whether or not to proceed will not happen until 2018.”

Main Street traffic was changed from two-way to one-way in 1957, according to Waterville historian Bill Arnold.

In another statement from the city and Colby College, officials said the traffic study “provides a conceptual blueprint for how improvements to traffic circulation and parking could be made to support our broader goals for Waterville’s downtown revitalization.”

“The study identifies the physical changes required to accommodate two-way traffic on Main Street and Front Street and suggests a number of related improvements that will help to make downtown a pedestrian-friendly environment with shops, restaurants, cultural attractions, residences and businesses,” the statement says. “The study also identified the projected costs associated with making these improvements. With the support demonstrated for these changes through several public meetings, City Council will be asked to review and provide their endorsement for the outcomes of this study.”

If the council endorses the study’s recommendations, the next step is to identify funding sources, including “state, federal and philanthropic opportunities,” according to the city and Colby statement.

“As funding is identified, further design and engineering will be needed to take this from concept to reality, with ongoing opportunities for public engagement. It is a unique opportunity that we have to address the traffic and parking needs of the downtown alongside the many investments already underway on Main Street to ensure we have a cohesive and vibrant downtown for the future.”

The City Council last February adopted a revitalization framework. Any changes to streets would have to be approved not only by the council, but also by state and federal officials.

Vehicle traffic on Main would move through downtown more slowly if changes presented in the study are made, according to the document. The street would be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, there would be areas for pedestrians only and sidewalks would be wider and paved. Some diagonal parking on Main would be changed to parallel and a few parking spaces would be removed altogether.

More than 100 city officials, downtown merchants, economic development advocates and others attended a public meeting last month at which Gorrill Palmer officials and those from Mitchell & Associates, also of Portland, spoke about landscaping and other issues, and a BFJ Planning official also talked about downtown parking. Don Ettinger, a principal of Gorrill Palmer, said the purpose of the effort was to revitalize downtown, improve aesthetics, encourage economic growth, maintain businesses that are in existence, improve pedestrian and bike activity, maintain adequate parking in downtown, and maintain vehicular and traffic safety.

Randy Dunton, Gorrill Palmer project manager, presented several scenarios for two-way traffic and what it would mean for three primary locations — Colby Circle, Post Office Square and the Front, Spring, Main and Bridge street area. Georges Jacquemart, a principal of BFJ Planning, of New York City, said an architect and urban designer did an inventory of all buildings and how loading of goods occurs. In many cases, the buildings have the flexibility of being loaded from The Concourse, he said, adding that buildings also were identified that must receive deliveries from Main Street.

Jacquemart recommended the city manage its parking system in the future more than it is managed today; continue the practice of municipal-shared parking; enhance and encourage walking; designate more desired parking for short-term, two-hour parking; and use The Concourse for two-hour parking as much as possible. Paid parking should be considered in some areas to help promote turnover; and people should be encouraged to park at Head of Falls, where improvements can be made, he recommended. Parking regulations should be enforced in the future, he said.

Last year, Colby bought five buildings downtown and has torn down the former Levine’s clothing store on Main Street and the former Elks building on Appleton Street. A boutique hotel is expected to be built on the Levine’s lot, while the Appleton site is now a parking lot. Colby plans to demolish the former Waterville Hardware building and will build another structure in its place, to house offices and other uses. The former Hains building at the corner of Appleton and Main is being renovated and Collaborative Consulting is expected to move to its upper floors when the work is complete. Colby also plans to build a residential complex on the northeast corner of The Concourse.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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