AUGUSTA — Two dozen Maple Street residents — frustrated by what they say is speeding traffic going to and from an under-construction apartment complex many of them opposed at the end of their short residential street — have petitioned the city seeking to have the speed limit lowered and speed bumps added to the street.

They also want the city to dedicate tax revenues generated from the apartment complex toward building a new access road into the site.

But their immediate concern is traffic speeding on their street, which they said puts motorists and walkers on the street at risk. Maple Street is off Willow Street, between the Kennebec River and Bangor Street, on the city’s east side.

“I’m afraid someone is going to get hit before anyone does something about this,” said Roger Madore, who has lived in an apartment building he now owns on Maple Street for more than 26 years.

The speeding traffic, he said, “is made worse because of the bad sight lines on the street. It’s dangerous.”

Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills, however, said city police monitored traffic on the street for several months and found no violations of the speed limit.

And the city’s Traffic Calming Committee, which considers requests for speed-reducing options, took up the matter, but could not find a justification for making any changes to the street.

“Most people are driving under the speed limit,” Mills said. “I think speed tables do work as a traffic calming technique, but I would first need a speeding issue identified through data and research before constructing them on a given street. I do not see the justification on Maple Street at this time.”

Speed tables, such as those in place on Cony Street near Hannaford, are similar to traditional speed bumps, but are wider and rise and fall more gradually.

Maple Street resident Joyce Grondin submitted a petition, signed by 24 residents of the street, to the city earlier this summer. She said city officials indicated their request goes to the City Council for discussion Sept. 12.

The petition requests the speed limit on the street be lowered from the current 25 miles per hour to 15 or 20 miles per hour. It also asks for three speed bumps be put in on the street: One near Maple’s intersection with Willow Street and two more on the street, including one by what residents say is a blind spot on top of a small hill that leads to the new apartment complex.

A worker drives through the new 29-unit apartment complex Thursday at the dead end on Maple Street in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

The 29-unit apartment complex is being built for Augusta Housing Authority, with a target audience of working people.

Amanda Olson, AHA’s executive director, said the agency did get one complaint early in the project that workers going to the construction site were speeding on the street and took immediate action to try to address the concern. She said they created a traffic safety plan and notified all contractors on the job they were required to drive below the posted speed limit on Maple and Willow streets and, if they didn’t, they would not be allowed on the site.

“When we got the complaint, I went right to the site, because it was very upsetting,” Olson said. “We let (contractors) know it was a serious issue and the safety of the neighborhood is a priority and speeding will not be tolerated by Portland Builders or Augusta Housing Authority. We’re empathetic to their concerns and have tried to do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the project on the neighborhood.”

She said she hasn’t seen motorists speeding when she’s been on the road, and said it’s hard to even get up to 25 miles per hour because the road is short and narrow.

Several Maple Street residents spoke against the proposal when it was up for city approvals, saying it would bring unwanted traffic and disruption to their otherwise quiet neighborhood. The street hasn’t drawn much traffic since the days it was formerly used as one of two entrances to the former Statler mill that has since been demolished on the site.

Grondin said the development isn’t a good fit for the neighborhood. She also said she’s almost been hit twice, while backing out of her driveway, by workers speeding to and from the construction site. If construction workers going to the site are speeding, Grondin said, so will residents who move into the complex — and they’re likely to be traveling back and forth even more often.

Fellow Maple Street resident Linda Weymouth said she has seen motorists going far faster than 30 miles per hour. She said she complained about the problem to one of the companies with workers on the site, but nothing changed. Weymouth also said speeds slowed when police monitored the road, but went back up after they left.

A man puts out the trash Thursday on Maple Street in Augusta, where a new 29-unit apartment complex is being built at the dead end of the street. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Olson said the housing authority is aware that having a new project take place in a neighborhood can be overwhelming and hard to deal with for residents. She said they’ve “done everything we can to bend over backwards and be helpful,” in easing the impact of the development on neighbors.

“I think we’ve certainly done everything we can do to respond quickly and as comprehensively as possible to respond to neighborhood concerns,” Olson said, noting the agency is not opposed to any of the petition’s requests. “We’re a housing authority, so our goal is always to make things better, not worse, for neighborhoods.”

Olson said the housing development is expected to be ready in mid-October or early-November, and C & C Realty Management will oversee leasing out apartments there.

Mills said it is up to the state to set speed limits. He said he’s not aware of any speed limit zones in the city of less than 25 miles per hour, other than a 20-miles-per-hour zone by Augusta State Airport.

The petition also seeks a commitment from the city to invest tax revenues expected to result from the apartment complex development in finding a better route into the site, which sits on the upper edge of the city-owned Kennebec Lockes site where officials hope to draw private investment. The city has not yet found any takers for that location.

When the city reached a tax increment financing agreement to help fund the housing authority’s project, it was estimated the city’s share of the revenues over the 20-year life of the pact would total about $277,000.

Grondin said the city should use the existing Drum Barker Road, which used to provide access to the former mill on the site, or build a new access road into the site.

City officials have said the ownership of Drum Barker Road is unclear and building a new road into the site would cost around $1.7 million — money the city does not have.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the tax revenues paid to the city on the development won’t come close to that amount.

The TIF proceeds, according to the agreement, are meant to be spent on “upgrades and improvements to street lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian and vehicular control and safety systems on Maple Street,” as well as pedestrian access on nearby Linden Street, which sits just above the apartment complex.

Bridgeo said the specific projects to be funded by those future revenues would be determined by the City Council, with approval required by state officials who oversee TIF programs.

Olson said nearly everyone seems to agree that ultimately a new access road should be built into the city-owned riverside property, to help spur development of the property.

For now, though, she said, the cost is prohibitive and the money expected to be generated in tax revenues from the apartment complex won’t come anywhere close to covering the cost.

Madore said if a new access road were built into the site, it would greatly increase the chances the city would attract development to the site and could also provide access to the apartment complex. When it is, he said, Maple Street could be turned back into a dead-end street.

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