SKOWHEGAN — Monday was the first day of a trial period to eliminate shortcuts through a residential neighborhood by creating one-way streets in Skowhegan to slow down speeders and divert traffic.

And just to make sure motorists got the message, the two main streets at North Avenue were blocked off with sawhorses and orange traffic cones. More traffic cones were placed on Madison Avenue to discourage motorists from turning onto Cleveland Street, which connects to Greenwood Avenue. The target streets — Gem Street and Cowette Street — are now one-way from Madison Avenue in hopes of eliminating the shortcut across town by directing traffic to Jewett Street, officials have said.

There wasn’t much traffic on the roads Monday because of the Patriots Day holiday, when government offices, schools and some business were closed, but there were a few offenders. Some cars were seen using Locust Street and Cleveland Street from Madison Avenue despite “Do not enter” signs, but mostly the traffic ran smoothly.

Road Commissioner Greg Dore said the idea all along was to put up the sawhorses and traffic cones to get everyone’s attention.

“I put them up this morning about 7:30,” Dore said Monday. “I had planned on doing it right along. I think they were effective. I don’t think they were confusing. It was pretty quiet, but I think it was working. It’s too early to tell. People haven’t figured ways around it yet.”

Dore said the cones and sawhorses will stay up at least through the end of the week. The cones are placed to make Gem and Cowette streets accessible as exits through only one lane to North Avenue, not as entrances.


Interim Skowhegan Police Chief Joel Cummings said he had two patrol officers on duty Monday and did not receive any complaints about traffic going the wrong way down the one-way streets or of any mishaps caused by the traffic cones and sawhorses.

“That would be a negative, no,” he said. “No complaints.”

Selectmen announced earlier this month that 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.

The changes mean an estimated 20,000 cars and trucks per week will have to use Jewett Street to connect from North Avenue to the town’s other major artery, either coming south from Cornville and Athens, or north from the downtown business district.

The area that includes West Street, Locust Street and Wilson Street is a residential subdivision that is not meant to be a shortcut across town. Speeding and traffic congestion have prompted complaints from residents in the neighborhood, so town officials said they were taking action on a temporary basis to see how the traffic plan works.

Dore 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.


In all, 13 “One way” and “Do not enter” signs have been installed and two large electronic signs warn motorists of the street changes.

Over on Cowette Street Monday afternoon, longtime resident John Matthews said it was probably too early to say if the plan will work, but having his grandson’s Somerset County Sheriff’s Department truck parked out front did the trick for speeders.

“The traffic has slowed, but we’ll see what happens in a few days,” said Matthews, who raised his kids on Cowette Street before the days of Wal-Mart and all the traffic. “This morning before they put the cones up we had four or five cars coming up through, but since they put the cones up, it stopped that. The thing is, we’ve got to find out how congested the traffic gets elsewhere.”

Matthews, who has lived on the street since 1970, said he knows something has to be done with motorists driving 35 or 40 mph, but isn’t sure making the streets one way is the answer, at least for this past weekend.

His grandson, Deputy Isaac Wacome, who was scheduled to go on duty later in the day Monday, said his parked truck slowed down the speeders, but an overall solution is going to be elusive.

“I think it would be better if it was two-way, but with the speed bump idea,” Wacome said. “Like how Colby College has their speed bumps, like that design, something that’s gradual. That would be effective in this neighborhood.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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