Drivers passing through downtown Wayne on Route 133 soon will see signs and lights that advertise the need to slow down and watch for pedestrians, after a group of citizens successfully applied for grant funding to install the safety measures.

That group has been trying to make the town more accessible to elderly residents who might not drive any longer and prefer to get around downtown by foot, but they also believe the safety measures will appeal to younger pedestrians too, said Pam Chenea, an organizer of the effort.

The Wayne village is “a small place, and people barrel through downtown without slowing, or slowing down not very much,” Chenea said, adding that the area is particularly busy when a farmer’s market and other events are going on in summer. “Just crossing the road from one side to the other is a real concern. If you’re disabled and frail, and unable to walk fast, it’s easier to think about a tragedy happening there.”

A tragedy did happen in the early 1980s, Chenea said, when Helen Filene Ladd died after being struck by a car in downtown Wayne.

“We have wanted to slow people down, and there has been an effort by the town to put up a sign that (gives the speed limit and the driver’s actual speed); in other words, to (get people to) slow down, and to move that around town,” Chenea said. “This grant opportunity came up from AARP, and this project fit into it very well. … I think it will help contribute to the safety of everyone in Wayne, not just elders, and we are very happy we can do that. It’s not something the town of Wayne had the funds for.”

In Wayne, a committee that is focused on making the town more accessible to the elderly has been conducting surveys to determine what residents actually need, and some of the respondents noted that they would like the town to be more pedestrian-friendly, Chenea said.

According to the 2010 census, more than 20 percent of the town’s 1,100 residents were 62 and older.

The $6,158 in funding for the improvements on Route 133 is coming from AARP, the national organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, Chenea said.

The new project calls for two blinking lights to be posted along Route 133 at either end of downtown Wayne. It also includes posting two signs in the middle of Route 133 to indicate the area is a crosswalk.

The town already has received the grant money and begun ordering the lights and signs, Town Manager Aaron Chrostowsky said.

The speed limit along Route 133 changes from 55 mph outside downtown Wayne to 30 mph in the village, Chrostowsky said, and for years, some residents have been concerned about the danger of trucks and other vehicles driving through at a fast speed.

A number of years ago, the town worked with the state lawmakers to reduce the speed limit in the village, Chrostowsky said. It has also paid to have extra patrols from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office monitor traffic in the village. And the town recently received a different grant from the Maine Department of Transportation that enabled it to buy a mobile unit that shows travelers’ rate of speed, comparing it with the speed limit.

The latest project should be completed by the beginning of November, according to an AARP news release announcing the grant.

Wayne was one of 87 communities around the nation, and four around Maine, to receive funding from AARP for a short-term project that can be completed this fall, said Lori Parnham, executive director of the organization’s state chapter.

“This is the perfect kind of project to support in a rural Maine community, not just for elders but for all ages,” Parnham said. It will help senior citizens “who may no longer be driving, or may not be driving as much as they used to.”

The other projects in Maine that are receiving AARP funds are Bowdoinham, which is creating a gardening club to engage isolated senior citizens; North Yarmouth, which is trying to make homes more accessible to emergency responders; and a set of communities around Bethel that are hoping to make elderly people safer in their homes.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

filed under: