SKOWHEGAN — There have been changes to the changes.

Gone are the one-way street signs on Gem, Cowette and West streets in Skowhegan, installed earlier this month to eliminate shortcuts through the residential neighborhood between North Avenue and Madison Avenue. Motorists now are allowed to use the two streets for two-way traffic — but they are not allowed to enter either street from North Avenue. “Do not enter” signs remain in place there for now.

Wait. What?

“All the ‘one way’ signs are gone. The one-way traffic, it isn’t right,” Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said Thursday. “It should have never been proposed, but by putting up ‘do not enter’ signs on the ends of Gem and Cowette, it was one of the proposed fixes for a high-volume street by restricting entry.”

Dore said drivers going south on Madison Avenue from the transfer station or from Cornville and Athens still have to go around from Jewett Street to enter the neighborhood, but once a driver is inside the area, the streets are open to two-way traffic.

He said oil delivery trucks, school buses and even U.S. Postal Service trucks making package deliveries had a problem with the one-way streets. He added that people with businesses or homes in the area also were put on the spot if they wanted to go up the streets from North Avenue but couldn’t because they were one-way.


Additionally, left turns onto Madison Avenue from Cleveland Street by the Belmont Motel no longer will be allowed, as a safety measure; but turns from either direction will be allowed onto Cleveland Street from Madison Avenue.

The whole problem started April 17 when Gem Street and Cowette Street were made 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 prompted complaints from residents in the neighborhood, so Skowhegan selectmen took action. The area that includes West Street, Locust Street and Wilson Street is a residential subdivision, not meant to be a shortcut across town, they said.

Some residents and business owners were not amused by the changes. Brian Bonneau, of Bonneau and Son Excavation and mobile home sales on North Avenue, said the changes in traffic flow this month hurt his business. He also owns rental properties off Gem Street and West Street, and his tenants were inconvenienced by having to go all the way around to get to their homes.

“I didn’t hear boo from you people,” Bonneau told selectmen during a regular meeting that turned unexpectedly boisterous Tuesday night. “By you doing that, it hurts my business on North Avenue and I can’t get to my six places on Gem Street or West Street. I’m losing 40 percent of my business of people buying mobile homes by you shutting off Gem Street. Most of them are from out of town. Nobody was asked about possible solutions.”

Planning Board member Harvey Austin also weighed in Tuesday night, pointing a finger at the Board of Selectmen for not canvassing the neighborhood before imposing the restrictions on public streets.

“Overwhelmingly, people were against it,” Austin said, offering selectmen assistance from the Planning Board on the matter. “I can’t believe you selectmen did not listen to the people. I think it’s time you guys listened to us.”


Carol Pike, who owns and operates Cam’s Nails on Gem Street, said earlier this month that she didn’t want the streets to become one-way. She said the change will only make the problem worse than it is now and possibly hurt her business. Others present Tuesday night agreed.

She said if her street is one-way, it will make drivers go even faster, not having to worry about traffic coming from the other direction. She said a better solution would be speed limit signs and even cameras to catch speeders and give them a ticket.

Interim police Chief Joel Cummings said during an earlier meeting that his department does not have adequate staff to monitor traffic on those streets.

“It will make them go faster — make the problem worse,” Pike said of the one-way signs. “It doesn’t solve the problem. This street, there’s no sidewalks for the kids.”

Selectman Donald Skillings, the board chairman, reminded those in attendance Tuesday night that the changes were only temporary while the town studied the traffic problems. Skillings noted that the traffic lights at Jewett Street where it meets Madison Avenue have been fixed and appear to have helped the traffic flow.

Selectwoman Betty Austin noted at the meeting that Skowhegan residents thought the moves were permanent. Selectman Soren Siren said he would like to see more public input.


A petition is being circulated on social media sites to change the streets back to the way they were.

Selectmen agreed Tuesday night to turn the entire matter over to Dore to study plans for a solution to the problem. Dore is expected to present his findings on a developed policy at a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. May 23 at the Town Office.

Other ideas brought up as possible solutions have included speed bumps or speed tables to slow the traffic and additional stop signs at intersections within the neighborhood, including at West Street.

Dore said Thursday all of those issues will be studied over the coming weeks while he prepares a town policy. Coming soon, he said, will be signs saying “local traffic only,” which he said will rely on honest people doing the right thing for their fellow residents. The “do not enter” signs will remain on Cowette Street, but will be taken down on Gem Street and replaced by “local traffic only,” Dore said.

“There’s a formula that we can use from the information that we have to determine what’s the best way to try to reduce the traffic in the neighborhood,” he said. “What selectmen are trying to do here is reduce the amount of traffic in the neighborhood. It’s as simple as that.”

To accomplish that, Dore is studying the traffic policy in use in the city of Portland and has a local policy now in its first draft, which will be delivered to selectmen at their next meeting and presented to the public May 23.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: