WINTHROP — A recent spike in crashes at the redesigned intersection of U.S. Route 202 and Main Street has led local officials, one of whom calls the new traffic pattern a “disaster,” to seek a review from the Maine Department of Transportation.

In the decade before that new traffic pattern was constructed last spring, an average of seven crashes were reported at the intersection every year, according to state data.

Since the state-funded project was completed about eight months ago, the rate has almost doubled. Nine crashes — an average of at least one per month — have been reported there, according to Dan Cook, the town’s interim police chief.

Four of those crashes resulted in injuries, but after looking at the reports, Cook said that most, if not all, of the injuries appeared to have been minor.

Even if it hasn’t caused serious injury, the new traffic pattern has stirred much frustration since it opened last summer. Nearly all of the crashes have come from drivers who failed to yield to traffic after arriving at a stop sign, then turning from Main Street onto U.S. 202’s eastbound lanes or from U.S. 202 eastbound to Main Street.

Both turns require drivers to cross the westbound lanes of U.S. 202, where traffic moves freely. But the twin stop signs have confused some drivers, who then have overlooked the oncoming westbound traffic.


“You’re sitting at the stop sign (at Main Street), and someone on 202 is sitting on the stop sign,” said Andy Wess, a recently elected member of the Town Council, at a meeting Monday night. “Who goes first?”

“I think it’s a disaster,” said Linda Caprara, the council’s vice chairwoman. “I really do. I think it’s a disaster. I’m surprised there haven’t been more accidents out there.”

At the regularly scheduled meeting, the councilors voted to authorize Town Manager Ryan Frost to send a letter to the Maine Department of Transportation seeking a study of the redesigned intersection.

State engineers hoped the new traffic pattern would diminish the number of accidents at Main Street and U.S. 202, which is one of the area’s busier junctions.

“We put all decision points at one location,” said Stephen Landry, the state traffic engineer at the transportation department, during an interview last summer. “We’re putting everybody where they’re theoretically looking at each other. That’s the key to the intersection. When you’re making that left to Main Street, you can see the person turning left towards 202. … That’s a big advantage to the way that’s set up.”

At the time, Landry said that accidents aren’t unusual after a new traffic pattern has been developed, as drivers are still getting used to it.


Ted Talbot, spokesman for department, also urged drivers to be careful as they navigate the new intersection.

“I think people need to recognize that this has been a trouble spot, and approach it with caution,” Talbot said at the time. “We’ll do all we can to continue to modify it as need be, but we can only make the road as safe as we can. There is shared responsibility between what we can do with the traffic pattern and drivers who need to take responsibility.”

While most town councilors said this week that they had received complaints about the new intersection, one councilor, Priscilla Jenkins, said that she also has heard praise for it.

When drivers come to an intersection with multiple stop signs, the first person who comes to a stop has the right of way, Talbot said this week. When drivers arrive at the same moment, one of the drivers must take the initiative to start a turn.

But transportation officials also have said they will continue to study the Winthrop intersection and make necessary improvements. They have not launched any formal analysis of the traffic pattern, according to Talbot.

“We hope to set a date to meet with town to discuss the options,” Talbot said Tuesday. “Is a flashing beacon the way to go, or flashing signs? We’ve had initial discussions. We hope to get with them this month.”


There had been a flashing beacon at the intersection, but it fell during the heavy wind storm last October, Talbot said. Before replacing it, transportation department officials will consider what other safety improvements could be made.

There also used to be a sign on Main Street that directed drivers turning off U.S. 202 to stay to the right, but it was toppled during a crash last week, Cook said. Officers have notified the transportation department about the downed sign, which remained toppled over Tuesday.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

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