An official from the Maine Department of Transportation will give a presentation about the department’s review of the speed limits along Bristol Road during a meeting of the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen at the town office at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus invited DOT Region 2 Traffic Engineer David Allen to present the results of the review, which included radar speed tests in July and November 2016.
A group of residents initially expressed concern about the limits during a public hearing before the selectmen in December 2015.
Members of the Bristol Road Community Association, which includes people who live on or near the road, submitted a petition to the selectmen with 621 signatures of people who would like the state to lower the speed limits on the road.
After the well-attended public hearing in December 2015, Lutkus submitted a formal request to the DOT for a study of the speed limits on Bristol Road. The petition from the Bristol Road Community Association was included in the request.
In the petition, the Bristol Road Community Association recommended reducing the speed limit from Day’s Cove to School Street from 35 mph to 25 mph, and reducing the speed limit from School Street to the Bristol-Damariscotta town line to a maximum of 30 mph.
Currently, the speed limit is 35 mph from Day’s Cove to the Down Easter Inn, and then 40 mph to the Bristol-Damariscotta town line.
The third recommendation on the petitions was to reduce the 50-mph speed limit on Route 130 in Bristol to 50 mph near the intersection of Route 129 and Route 130 to “encourage a real slowing of traffic entering the community of Damariscotta.”
The Bristol Road Community Association cited the major intersections on Bristol Road, including the entrance to LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus; the topography of the area; and the density of homes and home businesses along the road as reasons for the petition.
After receiving the town’s request for a review, DOT officials conducted radar tests in July and November. The radar study consisted of measuring the speed of 100 vehicles on a day of typical traffic flow to determine the speed at which 85 percent of drivers travel the road, according to Allen.
The DOT also considered a number of characteristics of the road, including the number of driveways, businesses, and intersections, as well as accident data for the past three years.
After taking all the data into consideration, the DOT found the speed limits along Bristol Road to be appropriate, with one exception. Data showed the portion of Bristol Road from Pine Ridge Road to the Down Easter Inn should be reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph.
Allen will discuss the department’s findings during his presentation Feb. 15. He said he hopes to provide a better understanding for the town and the residents of Bristol Road as to how he came to his conclusion.
“A lot of our roads are of this nature, where it’s serving multiple functions. It’s the way you get to Bristol and South Bristol, and it’s also (a) neighborhood,” Allen said. “Ultimately I want to do the right thing, and I think my recommendation is correct.”
The Bristol Road Community Association holds reservations about the DOT’s findings and the method in which the DOT determines the speed limits of roads, according to a letter to the editor from members of the association.
The Bristol Road Community Association would like to see a formal response to the petition and the data the association provided to the DOT, according to the letter from Dean Curran, Jean Moon, and Robert Piper.
“We believe that a formal response of some kind from the DOT, one addressing the unique data we presented through the detailed submission accompanying our presentation a year ago, should be provided for us. A specific response from the DOT to the demographic and neighborhood comparative data that was presented with our petition does not seem to be an unreasonable request in our opinion,” the association’s letter read.
The density of Bristol Road, when taking side streets into consideration, surpasses the density of Bristol Mills and Damariscotta Mills, which have lower speed limits, according to the association’s letter.
After Allen’s presentation, the association plans to have a meeting to discuss a response, Piper said.
“We don’t really know what he’s going to say or if he’ll give a written report or just talk about the findings,” Piper said. “Once we hear what he has to say, we will come up with a response that is both cooperative and deals with the issues we feel need to be addressed.”