WINSLOW — After a statewide spike in pedestrian fatalities and a crash that killed an eighth-grade boy in Lewiston, the Maine Department of Transportation spearheaded a project it’s bringing to communities to make the roads safer for Mainers who like to walk.

In November 2016, Jayden Cho-Sargent, 13, was hit by a pickup truck while in a crosswalk on his way to school. He died at the scene.

“It really galvanized the city of Lewiston,” said Patrick Adams, bicycle and pedestrian program manager at the state department, “but it also became a rallying cry for a lot of people that we really need to do something.”

At the same time, the number of pedestrian fatalities jumped from nine in 2014 to 19 in 2016, and 15 so far this year.

Now the department is traveling to cities and towns across Maine to collect information about communities’ safety concerns, which it hopes to turn into actionable pedestrian safety mitigation plans.

On Wednesday night, Adams and representatives from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which has partnered with the state on the project, held a forum at Winslow Elementary School to talk with residents about their concerns and provide safety tips.

“We don’t know the community like these people do,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see the project as the state’s task or the coalition’s task, but as an opportunity for the community.

This is the department’s eighth presentation, Adams said, adding that it plans to visit a total of 21 communities. It began the process in May in Westbrook.

The state looked at data on a map of the state and saw 10 “clusters,” which hold 21 communities, where fatal pedestrian crashes seemed to occur more often, Adams said.

While Winslow might not have a high rate of accidents, he said, it is a neighbor of Waterville, which is a different story.

“We know you oftentimes will go across the bridge, so you might be involved in one of those situations,” he said.

Each community that holds a forum will receive a rectangular rapid flashing beacon, dynamic speed feedback signs to monitor traffic speeds, and priority over others for funding from Adams’ program. Funding also is set aside for any problems that are cause for an immediate concern, Adams said.

Later, the state will hold meetings on issues unrelated to road structure that might impede safety, such as ordinances or town culture. Once it has identified all of the issues, the community will get a mitigation plan with long- and short-term recommendations.

In Winslow over the past five years there have been two reportable crashes, which means it caused extensive injury or damage, according to Winslow police Chief Shawn O’Leary, who attended the presentation.

O’Leary said he is trying to get funding assistance from the state for a centerline rumble strip on Route 3 heading to China, as crashes are common along that route.

James Tassé, assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, presented statistics and tips for the 22 residents who attended.

Head-on and pedestrian crashes are the most likely to be fatal in Maine, he said, and this reflects the national trend.

People ages 30 to 49 are most likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash, which is unexpected.

“People think it’s a school problem, it’s a school kid problem,” Tassé said. “It’s actually an adult problem.”

He also polled the audience about which areas people would consider high priorities for safety projects. Most said that the areas on Benton Avenue between the elementary school and Danielson Street and Halifax Street between Bay and Clinton streets were of the highest concern.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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