Maine DOT planning to add roundabout at dangerous UMaine intersection

Image courtesy of the Bangor Daily News

Construction for a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Park Street and Rangeley Road at the mouth of the entrance of the UMaine campus is projected to begin in January of 2018 with an estimated cost of about $2.5 million.

This is a Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) project, which the Town of Orono is a stakeholder in.

Samantha Brown, a third-year student at UMaine was a resident at Orchard Trails last year and drives through this intersection everyday to get to campus.

“I think it’s very dangerous because there is really no order to it. There are five entrances and exits scattered within a couple hundred feet from each other,” Brown said.

Brown is referring to the entrances and exits of Aromas Joe’s coffee shop, the UMaine campus, Alltown Market and gas station, Bangor Savings Bank and the Orchard Trails apartment complex.

“It’s not set up in a way that anyone learned to deal with in driver’s education, not [like] a four way intersection or anything organized. I see almost-accidents every time I drive through it because there are people taking quick, unsafe left turns off of campus,” Brown said.

“A roundabout would be ideal. A stoplight would stop traffic for too long and cause a bigger back up than what already occurs. A roundabout would allow for a smooth flow of traffic as there’s an order to it and people know how to drive and follow that order.”

Sophie Wilson, the Town Manager of Orono has been involved in various meetings with the MaineDOT along with her staff discussing potential solutions of improvements to the intersection. Her participation has been in macro-level discussions related to securing necessary local matching funds.

The MaineDOT has evaluated the traffic flow and crash data at this intersection and graded it as providing a service level of “F” or failing. These characteristics make it a dangerous intersection that needs a higher level of traffic control.

“I think it’s often difficult to implement any type of change in traffic control or traffic patterns. The studies that I have seen have convinced me that the roundabout will provide the best improvement that we can to this intersection and serve as an incremental step needed to begin much needed improvement along the Route 2 [Park Street] corridor,” Wilson said.

Evan Richert, the Town Planner of Orono, explained that this intersection is considered a high crash location that experiences 3 to 4 times the number of crashes that would be expected given the amount of traffic, causing major safety problems.

“A roundabout is designed to keep traffic at a relatively slow pace,” Richert expressed. “It’s a design that allows cars to enter into the circle, go around, and then exit while allowing other vehicles to come in at a fairly cautious pace, so that there aren’t long waits and it still keeps traffic moving.”

Richert explained they are concerned about the traffic from the bridge in Orono all the way to the Reserve.

“There is traffic out of Orchard Trails, Washburn and individual driveways that are all having trouble turning safely which is causing huge delays from those side streets and driveways onto Park Street. We know this is causing many frustrations,” Richert said.

The town council is considering a moratorium of the development, which could delay any activity at the site until the town can work with transportation planners in the region and the public to decide what improvements are needed in addition to this roundabout.

“The roundabout I think will take care of the major problems at the intersection but it won’t address the problems of the rest of that corridor. We have to figure out what the condition of the whole corridor is now and what it will be and come up with a proposed solution,” Richert stated.

Advertising for contractors is expected to be placed in November 2017.

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