WATERVILLE — It has been more than two months since the city adopted a new traffic pattern downtown and business owners say they’ve benefited from the change as it has slowed traffic, made the streets more accommodating to pedestrians and in some cases, helped increase sales.

Malcolm Porter, co-owner of Incense & Peppermints, a candy, gift and ice cream shop at 48 Main St., said he has seen an uptick in business on weekends, particularly when movies are being shown at the new Paul J. Schupf Art Center down the street.

“From my sales numbers, they are up a fair amount over last year, even with the economy the way it is,” Porter said Monday. “I know it is having some positive impact.”

For Jason Furchak, who with his wife January owns Holy Cannoli at 70 Main St., the new developments downtown, including the art center, The Lockwood hotel, Robin’s Nest flower shop and other businesses, are drawing more people to shop and eat there.

“We are very pleased with it,” Furchak said. “It’s worked, it’s working. It’s slowed traffic down significantly. I’m finding people walking the streets, crossing the streets. I think people are finding parking. It’s actually easier to get around Waterville now. It’s just easier to navigate.”

Acting City Manager Bill Post said he has not had any complaints about the two-way traffic and people have said positive things about slower traffic and better walkability, but he has heard concerns, mostly from people not familiar with Waterville, about the inability to turn east off Main Street to get to the Ticonic Bridge leading into Winslow. The major complaint about that intersection is that the signage is poor and motorists can’t see the painted markings on the streets, he said.


Post said he and Public Works Director Matt Skehan have talked about solutions for better signs and plan to work with the Maine Department of Transportation on the issue.

“We’re working on trying to determine what we can do there for better signage,” Post said Tuesday.

Malcom Porter, the co-owner of Incense & Peppermints in downtown Waterville, sets out a sign Tuesday in front of his store. Porter is among the business owners praising the improvements to downtown and in particular the change to two-way traffic on Main Street and nearby Front Street. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Skehan said the feedback he has received regarding the traffic pattern is overwhelmingly positive. People say the new design calms traffic and has made a big difference, he said.

“Traffic moving to College Avenue-Front Street as well as Elm has helped ease congestion downtown,” Skehan said Tuesday in an email. “There have been a few issues with intersections at Main-Spring and Colby Circle. We don’t believe the design needs to be altered, rather new signage and clear paint markings in the spring should help motorists.”

One of the worries many business owners had before the change from one-way to two-way traffic on Main and Front streets, which started in November, was that delivery trucks would have a difficult time parking at businesses and getting in. Furchak, a former UPS driver, said deliveries have been smooth at Holy Cannoli. He said most deliveries occur between 5 and 9 a.m. in the restaurant business, and there hasn’t been a problem. Some deliveries are done on Main Street and some on the other side of the businesses along the parking area known as The Concourse.

Furchak said people are coming to Waterville from towns and cities to the north such as Bangor, Newport, Brewer, Dixmont and Pittsfield, and they tell him they used to go to Bangor, but Waterville is easy to get to and the downtown offers a lot.


Porter, who owns Incense & Peppermints with David Spinney-Porter, said customers say they are able to navigate the streets, though some say they don’t like the fact that one can’t turn left at the south end of Main Street to get onto Ticonic Bridge.

He said he is having a new sign erected in front of the business so that people traveling from both directions can better see the store, which is diagonally across the street from The Lockwood. He said he has gotten a lot of customers from the hotel as well.

“I think this end of Main Street looks really nice and really inviting,” he said.

Charlie Giguere, owner of Silver Street Tavern at the corner of Main and Silver streets, said he appreciates the new traffic pattern.

“The big thing that has really been transforming is the speed of the cars going down Main Street,” he said. “It’s not a runway to get to Winslow anymore.”

Giguere said customers have not expressed to employees any issues with the new traffic pattern.


“I haven’t heard a peep,” he said. “I haven’t heard a negative word from anyone.”

Bill Mitchell, former owner of GHM Agency on Main Street, and the owner of properties downtown, was an advocate for the traffic change from when it was first discussed. Mitchell said Monday the changes have been good for downtown.

“I think that the revitalization of downtown Waterville, including the transition of Main Street from one-way to two-way, has been the best transformation in our city since urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said.

Josh Densmore, general manager of Portland Pie Co. at 173 Main St., said change is difficult for some people and he thinks the traffic change has made some people more hesitant to come downtown, but with time, they will acclimate.

“Overall, I think it’s done a great thing for people as far as people being able to get around better,” he said.

The change also has made it easier for delivery drivers who have been able to cut down on their time because of greater ease of movement downtown, according to Densmore.


“If anything, I would say it’s helped, because it’s less runaround for many drivers,” he said. “I’m not getting any complaints.”

Main Street on Monday in Waterville. Merchants have largely praised the change from one-way to two-way traffic on Main Street and nearby Front Street. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

He said the wider sidewalks allow for more outdoor dining and he hopes to have tables out in spring.

Altering the traffic pattern represented the culmination of a two-year, $11.2 million downtown revitalization project by the city, Colby College and the state Department of Transportation that also included improved walkways, lighting, landscaping and intersections.

In 2018, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Waterville would receive a $7.37 million federal grant to alter the direction of travel, improve intersections, update sidewalks, add plantings, install benches and complete the nearby RiverWalk at Head of Falls. The grant was part of $26.6 million awarded to Maine projects through the federal BUILD program to help improve infrastructure, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion and increase safety.

The city is now holding downtown “visioning” meetings to get input from the public on what else Waterville needs downtown. The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Educare at 56 Drummond Ave. The public will learn about the study purpose and planning principles; hear about discussions held in December at an open house; help create a vision for community needs such as housing, open space, recreation, business and economic development; and discuss connections, mobility and transit.

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