SKOWHEGAN — One thing was clear Tuesday night following a public hearing on street and traffic woes in Skowhegan: Residents do not want to go back to the way things were before recent changes in the residential neighborhood around Gem Street, Cowette Street and Greenwood Avenue.

More than 30 people attended the public hearing, calling for sidewalks, speed tables and decrying high traffic volume, speeding cars and motorists running stop signs. Residents also said that, as taxpayers, they didn’t want to be prevented from using certain streets if they are made to be one-way, like private block parties. People want to get to Burger King from Dr. Mann Road without breaking the law, they said.

Residents agreed all the issues were safety issues. More public input and more police activity were advocated.

In the end, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to keep things the way they are now with recent changes made by Road Commissioner Greg Dore since April.

“I think we can all live with that and we can make it happen,” said Selectman Soren Siren said in making the motion to pass. Selectwoman Darla Pickett, the lone dissenter, said she still wanted more time before rushing into restrictions without input from a safety committee.

The way things are is — Gem Street open to local traffic only; Cowette one way with big “Do not enter” signs alerting motorists and no left turn onto Madison Avenue from Cleveland Street.


In addition, interim Police Chief Joel Cummings said he will began a new plan to meet community safety needs. That plan includes computer calls generated to the patrol officers on duty that say “it’s time to go do traffic,” Cummings said.

“For a half-an-hour period, we do nothing but traffic,” Cummings said. “It’s going to designate a specific area, a specific purpose — speed, stop sign violations — and it’s going to be random. We’re going to start off with at least two of those a day for each shift; two during the day, two at night.”

Dore said in April that 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 to 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.

Changes were made. Streets were made one-way, stop signs were installed, as were “Do not enter” signs. Then changes were made to the changes. Gone were the one-way street signs on Gem and West streets in Skowhegan, installed to eliminate shortcuts through the residential neighborhood between North Avenue and Madison Avenue. Motorists were allowed to use the two streets for two-way traffic — but they are not allowed to enter either street from North Avenue.

The issue was first addressed April 17 when Gem Street and Cowette Street were made one-way from Madison Avenue — to 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.

In other areas of the residential neighborhood, fewer cars were going through, but they were going faster, Dore said.


The Skowhegan Planning Board also is looking into the problems, Town Manager Christine Almand said.

Dore also has drafted a “traffic calming” policy, based on regulations in the city of Portland.

Under the proposed policy, 10 or more residents from any given area of town could file a petition with the town clerk for review of their traffic complaints. The petition then would be sent to the road commissioner and each selectman. Any member of the Board of Selectmen also could initiate the process. The road commissioner would analyze the complaint and report back to the selectmen with his findings for final action by them.

That policy will be acted upon in the coming months.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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