To the editor:
The DOT option 2 plan, “Wiscasset Downtown Improvements,” is just that, a downtown beautification project, not a traffic solution. The downtown will be transformed, there is no doubt about that, but the real problem, traffic congestion, will not be addressed. It will be made worse for a longer period of time.
As appealing as the option 2 rendering may appear, there is a glaring omission. The rendering doesn’t show a single car or truck on the street. Why? Because it will be just as congested, if not more so, with longer backups and delays coming into town and busier side streets, in particular Water and Middle streets.
Let’s step back from the “razzle dazzle” and ask: how can the installation of two crosswalks, two traffic signals, and right turns on Railroad Avenue (left turns will be allowed but discouraged) to access a 26-space and 2-bus-space parking area, improve traffic flow?
Or how does a 29-car off-street parking lot on Water Street that will add more cars onto the side streets improve traffic flow?
What about the additional 20 spaces that will be created on the expanded town wharf? How will the cars entering and exiting to get back onto Route 1 improve traffic flow?
And then we have the railroad tracks. Won’t all hazardous-material trucks and school buses still have to stop? How does that improve traffic flow?
The DOT would have us believe the new traffic signals can be controlled and manipulated in some way to reduce traffic delays by 55-58 percent, and that fewer jaywalkers will also help because bollards will be installed along the curb.
The public is being sold a bill of goods.
Option 2 is what it is: an urban development/design plan, not a traffic congestion solution.
And what is the plan for store deliveries? Truck parking will be allowed during certain times of the day to unload merchandise? Are the bollards removable, or would the delivery people have to step over them?
Mr. Audibert’s mantra that “The thing to keep in mind is that this is really a two-month problem” is misleading and inaccurate. The traffic congestion begins in earnest around Memorial Day and lasts well into October.
In truth, the traffic problem in Wiscasset is a yearlong problem for the town, and for the entire Midcoast region. It is a yearlong problem for commuters, commercial transport, and local residents.
The DOT plan is simply changing a messy problem to a pretty mess.
Wiscasset should take the DOT money (our taxpayer money) and run, and not look back. Who wouldn’t want a $5 million gift? At the very least you will have a transformed downtown.
The proposed “improvements” will only exacerbate and not mitigate the traffic congestion, not only on Main Street but especially the side streets.
In closing, the Wiscasset forefathers 58 years ago knew that the only way to solve the traffic bottleneck in town was to build a bypass. For years, the issue was studied and debated by many groups, and a consensus was finally reached that a bypass should be built. Foolishly, Commissioner Bernhardt killed the plan because it would cost too much. So much for investing in Maine’s transportation future, and so much for having faith in the hard work of the many groups and people who worked on the issue for so many years.
Let me leave you with one last comment. Personally, I feel the Wiscasset downtown is historically charming as is. Wiscasset does not need a facelift. It needs bypass surgery.
After the last paver is set and the first summer arrives, we will be back, even more frustrated and disillusioned, but at least the sidewalks will be new.