SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen Tuesday night are scheduled to make a decision on making two in-town residential streets one-way streets and to set a public hearing on the matter for next month.

The discussion will come less than a week before 13 “One way” and “Do not enter” signs are unveiled near the corners of Gem and Cowette streets, which have become shortcuts for motorists to get to North Avenue and Madison Avenue.

As of Monday, April 17, Gem Street and Cowette Street will be one-way from Madison Avenue — where they meet Greenwood Avenue and Cleveland Street, next to the Belmont Motel and across from the Hannaford supermarket — to North Avenue. Speeding and traffic congestion have prompted complaints from residents in the neighborhood, so town officials decided it was time to take action.

Selectmen at their regular meeting March 28 discussed the issue before giving Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore his “marching orders” to install the signs. The board will discuss the plan further Tuesday night and vote to make the temporary change and to schedule the public hearing.

Residents will have their say on the plan at the public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, to see if the plan will become permanent. Town Manager Christine Almand said the Skowhegan Police Department has been made aware of the changes.

The signs went up a week ago and have been covered with black plastic.

The area that includes West Street, Locust Street and Wilson Street is a residential subdivision and not meant to be a shortcut across town, Dore said.

The road commissioner said his department did a traffic count and found that 11,449 cars and light trucks used Gem Street in both directions over the course of one week to get to one side of town or the other. He said 34 percent of those motorists were exceeding the speed limit. About 5,500 cars were counted on Cowette Street that week.

Almand said one of the first things the town is going to do before the signs are unveiled is to make sure the traffic lights are working properly at the intersection of Jewett Street, where much of the traffic will be diverted, and Madison Avenue. One of the complaints about the proposal is the prospect of having to wait at those lights, she said.

Almand said she received several phone calls after the announcement that the streets were going to be changed. She said “a slight majority” of the calls were against the plan. Almand said Dore will monitor the traffic using the same electronic equipment he used to do the traffic count.

Concerns include worries that the diverted traffic also could cause a problem on Jewett Street, where North Elementary School is located.

Dore said he agrees that traffic on Jewett Street could be a concern, but it was designed as a collector street and should be able to handle the increase in traffic. He said he also agrees with one resident who said that the arrival of Wal-Mart and Shop ‘n’ Save (now Hannaford) in 1993 contributed to the change in traffic patterns in Skowhegan.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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