AUGUSTA — The city might study whether its downtown would be better off with two-way traffic.

City councilors are scheduled Thursday to discuss having a study done to determine whether the now one-way-only downtown section of Water Street should be converted to allow two-way traffic.

Proponents of the change have said one-way traffic moves motorists through too quickly, discouraging pedestrians from walking in the area and making it less likely people will shop downtown.

A similar traffic study was completed this year in Waterville, with an executive summary of that report stating the current one-way traffic patterns there push traffic through and around downtown, rather than inviting customers to the shops, restaurants and cultural venues there. The city of Waterville, Colby College and state Department of Transportation funded the $102,000 study.

Augusta councilors, at their recent goal-setting session, included exploring the conversion of Water Street from one-way to two-way traffic on their list of goals for the coming year.

Also, the Augusta Downtown Alliance has requested that the city seek to have a study done to determine the feasibility of having two-way traffic on Water Street.

“This isn’t to say Water Street is going from one-way to two-way traffic,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “This is to respect the request of the Augusta Downtown Alliance that we look at the matter, as a number of members of that organization feel converting to two-way traffic would be significantly better for the health of the downtown. And it’s hard to either reinforce that or refute that idea without some data.”

In 2013, state legislators rejected a proposal, made by then Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, that the state study whether Water Street should be switched to two-way traffic in downtown Augusta. Some legislators said the study’s cost, an estimated $50,000, was too high for the state to bear.

Wilson is no longer in the Legislature, but now he’s on the City Council, having been sworn in as an at-large city councilor in January.

Also in 2013, a visiting team of downtown experts who explored potential ways to help revitalize the city’s downtown recommended considering, or even having a trial run, of switching to two-way traffic downtown. They said statistics indicated businesses in downtowns with two-way streets do better financially.

Bridgeo said city workers have done some preliminary work pursuing funding for a traffic study and estimate it would cost in the $100,000 range. He said if councilors authorize proceeding with the study, the city would apply to the state Department of Transportation to seek grant funding to help pay for it. He said he’d recommend, if the city is successful in getting DOT grant funding, that the city’s share of the cost of the study, likely roughly half the estimated total cost, come from money from downtown Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district money, which is dedicated for downtown improvements.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider finalizing their 2017 goals;

• Meet with a representative of Golder Associates, a Freeport firm the city might contract with to provide information as part of an effort to resolve a long-running dispute between McGee Construction, owner of a West River Road pit where the firm blasts rock to create aggregate for construction projects, and its neighbors in the nearby Grandview neighborhood, who say blasting from the pit damages their homes and disrupts their lives;

• Hear a presentation about the school department’s “Future Search” planning process; and

• Discuss authorizing a grant application to seek funding to help address senior citizen transportation needs.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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